Tony Chung, 20, is the youngest person to be convicted under Hong Kong’s new law to suppress dissidents.
A young Hong Kong democracy activist was sentenced to three and a half years in prison after recognizing secession under Hong Kong’s fully implemented National Security Law.
Following Tuesday’s sentence, 20-year-old Tony Chung is now the youngest person to be found guilty under a new law that suppressed dissent in Hong Kong and changed the once outspoken international business center.
Earlier this month, he pleaded guilty to one count of secession and one count of money laundering, but openly declared that he “has nothing to be ashamed of.”
Zhong was the convener of student localism before. This was a group he set up as a middle school student five years ago to advocate Hong Kong’s independence from China.
Separation from China was a marginal minority view in Hong Kong at the time, although calls for autonomy were increasing during the large-scale and often violent democratic protests two years ago.
Beijing implemented the National Security Law on Hong Kong in response to these protests, and student localism disbanded a few hours before it took effect.
The authorities accused Zhong of continuing to run the organization with the help of overseas activists and soliciting donations through PayPal. He faces charges of money laundering.
The prosecutor said that Zhong’s group published more than 1,000 social media posts, including calls for “freedom from the colonial rule of the Chinese Communist Party” and “establishment of the Hong Kong Republic.”
More than 150 arrested
Although the Hong Kong authorities have promised that the law will not have retrospective effect, some of the positions cited by prosecutors can be traced back to before the promulgation of the security law.
On Tuesday, Stanley Chen, one of the selected judges selected by the government to hear national security cases, said Zhong’s criminal intent was “obvious” on social media, interviews, street stalls and schools.
“He actively organized, planned and implemented activities to separate the country,” said Chen Danli, a district court judge.
Zhong has been detained for more than a year since his arrest in October 2020.
He was arrested by plainclothes police at a coffee shop opposite the US Consulate, where he was reportedly planning to seek asylum.
Security laws target anything that the authorities consider subversion, “terrorism”, or collusion with foreign powers.
Chung initially faced additional charges of sedition and another charge of money laundering, but was put on hold after the plea bargain.
In another case in December last year, Zheng was sentenced to four months in prison for illegal assembly and insulting the Chinese flag.
So far, four other men have been convicted in different cases under the security law-mainly because of their political views.
According to the bill, more than 150 people have been arrested and nearly half of them have been charged.
Bail is often refused, and guilty pleas are a way to reduce the legal costs of final judgments and long court battles.
Most democratic politicians are now in prison or in self-exile. Dozens of civil society organizations closed down, and some international rights protection organizations left the city.
The Chinese and Hong Kong authorities deny that the National Security Law tramples on individual rights and stated that the legislation is necessary to restore stability after mass street protests in 2019.
The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, promising a high degree of autonomy. Democracy activists and some Western governments claim that China has violated this promise-Beijing strongly denies this accusation.