On allegations of secession and money laundering, Tony Chung, a 20-year-old former leader of Hong Kong pro-independence youth group Student Localism, was sentenced to 43 months in prison.
The district court judge Stanley Chan said, “He aggressively coordinated, planned, and implemented activities to split the country.”
Chung had accepted a plea deal, admitting to one count of secession and one count of money laundering related to funds he had received through the payment processing site PayPal for his pro-democracy and pro-independence work.
Prosecutors agreed to remove accusations of sedition and another count of money laundering in return for his guilty plea, cutting his sentence by a fourth.
Chung said he had “nothing to be ashamed of” when he pleaded guilty earlier this month.
Who is Tony Chung?
Plainclothes policemen escorted him and two others away from a coffee shop near the US consulate when he was arrested in October 2020, according to local reports. Chung was working on an asylum application.
Chung is the first person under Hong Kong’s national security law, which was enacted in response to pro-democracy protests in 2019.
What is Hong Kong’s national security law?
Authorities have clamped down on dissent in the city under the law, which took effect in July 2020, thereby ending Hong Kong’s special status under the “one country, two systems” premise agreed upon when it became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China in 1997.
Amnesty International announced last month that it planned to close its Hong Kong offices by the end of the year due to the law’s risk to its employees.
According to Amnesty International, the law makes it “difficult for human rights organisations to work freely and without risk of serious government retaliation.”
The bill, which was introduced in June 2020, made acts that Beijing considered to be crimes of foreign cooperation, terrorism, secessionism, and subversion illegal. Since the national security law went into effect, more than 150 people have been arrested, with over half of them being charged.
In such circumstances, bail is frequently rejected, and offenders can lower their sentences by pleading guilty.
The measure, according to authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing, is vital to restore stability following pro-democracy protests.
Activists say China has violated Hong Kong’s freedoms
As the law took effect, civil society organisations disbanded rather than face the prospect of its members spending the rest of their lives in prison.
Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997. It was returned to Chinese authority in 1997, but with guarantees that the city’s rights and rule of law would be upheld.
China has been accused of violating those rules by pro-democracy campaigners and Western countries, which Beijing denies.
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