Thursday, December 9

Hong Kong: 20-year-old pro-democracy activist sentenced for “secession”

Tony Chung, the youngest pro-democracy activist convicted in the name of national security legislation in Hong Kong, pictured August 8, 2020 ISAAC LAWRENCE

A young pro-democracy activist from Hong Kong was sentenced on Tuesday to three and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to “secession” under the drastic national security law.

Tony Chung, 20, is the youngest activist to be sentenced in the name of this legislation, imposed in June 2020 by Beijing and which made it possible to muzzle any dissent in this financial center once considered a privileged place of freedom of expression.

At the beginning of November, he pleaded guilty to the count of “secession” and another of “money laundering” while declaring, provocatively, “to have nothing to be ashamed of”.

Tony Chung was the head of a student association, Student Localism, founded in 2016 and which demanded Hong Kong independence.

Beijing imposed this national security law to end the huge and often violent protests that rocked the city in 2019. Student Localism had been dissolved within hours of its entry into force.

Authorities accused Chung of continuing to operate the association with the help of foreign activists and of soliciting donations through PayPal, which they said amounted to money laundering.

The prosecution said that this association has published more than a thousand messages on social networks, calling in particular to “get rid of the Chinese Communist colonial regime” and “build a Republic of Hong Kong”.

Some of the messages cited by prosecutors date back to a period prior to the entry into force of the National Security Law when the Hong Kong authorities had claimed that it would not be retroactive.

On Tuesday, Stanley Cha, who is among the magistrates chosen by the government to try national security cases, claimed that Mr. Chung’s criminal intent was “clear to all” on social media, in interviews, in street stalls and in schools.

The young activist has already carried out more than a year of detention after being arrested at the end of October 2020 by plainclothes police, a few meters from the American consulate to which he wishes to seek asylum.

A large number of pro-democracy activists have left the city to seek refuge abroad since the entry into force of this controversial law, which leaves room for wide interpretation. Activists who voice their opinions can be accused of “subversion” and “collusion with foreign forces”.

Over 150 people have been arrested, about half of whom have been charged, under the law. Bail is often refused.

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