A teenage Hong Kong democracy activist was charged on Thursday with secession, the primary public political determine to be prosecuted underneath a sweeping new nationwide safety legislation Beijing imposed on the town.
Tony Chung, 19, appeared in court docket two days after he was arrested by plainclothes police in a Hong Kong espresso store reverse the US consulate, additionally charged with cash laundering and conspiring to publish seditious content material.
He was remanded into custody till his subsequent court docket listening to on January 7 and faces a attainable life jail sentence if convicted underneath the brand new legislation.
Chung is a former member of Scholar 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 legislation in late June however stored its worldwide chapters going.
The laws — a response to very large and infrequently violent pro-democracy protests that swept the town final 12 months — outlawed a bunch of recent crimes, together with expressing sure political opinions akin to advocating independence or larger autonomy for Hong Kong.
Chung and three different members of Scholar 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.
On Thursday, Amnesty Worldwide stated the costs confirmed authorities have been wielding the legislation to criminalise peaceable political expression.
“The intensifying assault on human rights in Hong Kong has been ramped up one other notch with this politically motivated arrest by which a peaceable pupil activist has been charged and detained solely as a result of the authorities disagree along with his views,” stated Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Amnesty’s China crew.
The US additionally condemned Chung’s arrest.
“The usage of the Nationwide Safety Unit of the Hong Kong Police Drive for the detention of a minor in a espresso store is reprehensible,” stated a State Division spokesperson.
Aiming for US consulate?
Hypothesis has swirled that police moved on Chung as a result of he hoped to ask for asylum on the US consulate in Hong Kong.
Slightly-known group calling itself Mates of Hong Kong put out a press release shortly after Chung’s arrest on Tuesday saying it had been attempting to rearrange for Chung to enter the US consulate that day and search sanctuary.
AFP was not capable of independently confirm the group’s declare and Chung has been unable to remark as a result of he has remained in police custody.
His bail situations from his first arrest prevented him from leaving Hong Kong.
Asylum claims to the US 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 and embassies don’t are inclined to grant asylum as doing so may spark an enormous diplomatic tussle.
Native media this week reported that 4 individuals who could have been attempting to assist Chung entered the American diplomatic mission on Tuesday however have been turned away.
The consulate has declined to remark.
A small however rising variety of Hong Kongers have fled the town since Beijing’s crackdown on democracy protesters and up to date asylum circumstances are recognized to have been profitable in each Germany and Canada.
China bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature to impose the brand new safety legislation, conserving its contents secret till it was launched.
It targets a wide selection of acts deemed as secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with overseas 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 12 months’s big rallies stay unaddressed and the town remains to be deeply polarised.
Critics say the legislation’s broad wording has delivered a hammer blow to the semi-autonomous metropolis’s freedoms.
The laws additionally 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 stated it’s going to have jurisdiction over probably the most severe nationwide safety offences.
Round two dozen individuals have been arrested underneath the brand new legislation, together with newspaper tycoon and staunch Beijing critic Jimmy Lai.
Solely two have thus far been charged — Chung and a person who allegedly rode his bike into a bunch of police throughout a protest.
(Aside from the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV workers and is printed from a syndicated feed.)