Hong Kong teen activist Tony Chung charged with secession

HONG KONG: A teenage Hong Kong democracy activist was charged on Thursday with secession, the primary public political determine to be prosecuted beneath a sweeping new nationwide safety regulation Beijing imposed on the town.
Tony Chung, 19, appeared in court docket charged with secession, cash laundering and conspiring to publish seditious content material, two days after he was arrested by plainclothes police in a Hong Kong espresso store reverse the US consulate.
He was remanded into custody till his subsequent court docket listening to on 7 January and faces between 10 years to life in jail if convicted beneath the brand new regulation.
Chung is a former member of Pupil Localism, a small group that advocates Hong Kong’s independence from China.
The group stated it disbanded its Hong Kong community shortly earlier than Beijing blanketed the town in its new safety regulation in late June however saved its worldwide chapters going.
The laws — a response to very large and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests that swept the town final yr — outlawed a number of latest crimes, together with expressing sure political beliefs akin to advocating independence or higher autonomy for Hong Kong.
Chung and three different members of Pupil Localism have been first arrested by a newly created nationwide safety police unit in July on suspicion of inciting secession by way of social media posts.
A bit of-known group calling itself Pals of Hong Kong put out a press release shortly afterwards Chung’s arrest on Tuesday saying it had been making an attempt to rearrange for Chung to enter the US consulate that day and apply for asylum.
AFP was not in a position to independently confirm the group’s declare.
Chung was held by police till his look in court docket on Thursday morning and has due to this fact been unable to touch upon whether or not he was planning to hunt sanctuary.
His bail circumstances from his first arrest prevented him from leaving Hong Kong.
Asylum claims to the US normally need to be made on arrival within the nation or by way of a United Nations refugee referral programme.
With some very uncommon exceptions, consulates don’t are inclined to grant asylum.
A small however rising variety of Hong Kongers have fled the town since Beijing’s crackdown on democracy protesters and up to date asylum instances are recognized to have been profitable in each Germany and Canada.
China bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature to impose the brand new safety regulation, conserving its contents secret till it was launched.
It targets secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with international forces.
Together with mass arrests and an anti-coronavirus ban on public gatherings it has largely succeeded in stamping out mass protests and dissent.
However the root causes of final yr’s large rallies stay unaddressed and the town remains to be deeply polarised.
Critics say the regulation’s broad wording criminalises sure peaceable political beliefs and delivers a hammer blow to the semi-autonomous metropolis’s freedoms.
The laws ended the authorized firewall between Hong Kong and the authoritarian mainland, empowering China’s safety brokers to function brazenly within the metropolis for the primary time.
Beijing has additionally stated it can have jurisdiction over essentially the most severe nationwide safety offences.
These convicted with nationwide safety crimes face between 10 years and life in jail.
Round two dozen individuals have been arrested beneath the brand new regulation got here in, together with newspaper tycoon Jimmy Lai, a staunch Beijing critics.
Solely two have to this point been charged — Chung and a person who allegedly rode his motorcycle into a gaggle of police throughout a protest.

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