Hong Kong student activist Tony Chung, 20, was sentenced to three years and seven months in jail Tuesday, weeks after he plead guilty to secession, under the Beijing-imposed national security law, and to a charge of money laundering, court officials said.
Chung, the youngest person to be convicted under the national security law, told the District Court when he plead guilty on Nov. 4: “I have nothing to be ashamed of.”
The former head of the now-disbanded pro-independence group Studentlocalism plead guilty to a further charge of “money-laundering,” relating to his use of a Paypal account to collect donations from supporters.
Chung has been denied bail since his initial arrest at a coffee shop near the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong on Oct. 27, 2020, while he was seeking asylum.
He is stood trial under Article 21 of the national security law, which prohibits anyone from “actively organizing, planning, implementing or participating in acts aimed at dividing the country and undermining national unity in Hong Kong.”
Chung received three years and four months for the charge of secession, and a year and a half for money laundering, with three months to be served non-concurrently.
Chung had pleaded not guilty to another count of money laundering and to conspiracy to publish seditious materials — charges that were left on file without prosecution under a plea bargain arrangement.
According to prosecutors, Chung continued to publish posts to his group’s Facebook page even after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed the national security law on Hong Kong from July 1, 2020, providing links for donations, despite Chung’s claim that his group had stopped all Hong Kong-based activities.
Police had seized pro-independence flags, leaflets, and books about Hong Kong independence at Chung’s home, they told the court.
“Secession” charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, but the District Court can only hand down jail terms of up to seven years.
Rights monitors condemned the sentence.
“Tony Chung’s sentencing is disproportionate, draconian, and sets a dangerous precedent for other young Hong Kongers whose only crime is using social media to protest the dismantling of Hong Kong’s freedoms,” said Johnny Patterson, policy director of Hong Kong Watch.
“At twenty years old, Tony Chung is the youngest person to be sentenced under this draconian law. He will not be the last,” said Patterson.
Reported by RFA’s Cantonese Service. Written in English by Paul Eckert.
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