National security law: Hong Kong student activist facing up to seven years in prison after change of trial venue

Jasmine Siu
·2-min read

Hong Kong student activist Tony Chung Hon-lam could face up to seven years in prison if convicted under the Beijing-imposed national security law after prosecutors moved his case to the District Court.

Chief Magistrate Victor So Wai-tak, one of six magistrates designated to adjudicate national security cases, on Thursday granted prosecutors’ request to transfer Chung’s secession case from West Kowloon Court to the higher court, where sentences are capped at seven years.

The 19-year-old, who founded the now-defunct Studentlocalism group, is the second of four people charged under the legislation – which criminalises in broad terms any acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with external forces – since its enactment on June 30, 2020.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

The first defendant, Tong Ying-kit, was accused of inciting secession and terrorism for allegedly driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers while carrying a flag calling for the city’s liberation during a July 1 demonstration. He will stand trial at the High Court, where the maximum sentence is life imprisonment.

Tong Ying-kit was the first person to be charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law. Photo: Cable TV
Tong Ying-kit was the first person to be charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law. Photo: Cable TV

Prosecutors have yet to reveal their preferred venue of trial for the two other defendants, one of whom is media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, founder of Next Digital, which owns the Apple Daily tabloid.

There is only one designated national security judge at the District Court known to the public so far: Stanley Chan Kwong-chi.

Chung has been charged with four counts – one each of secession and conspiring to publish seditious content, and two of money laundering.

Secession is punishable by life imprisonment for offences of a grave nature.

Prosecutors alleged that Chung sought to separate Hong Kong from mainland China, or to alter the city’s legal status unlawfully, between July 1 and October 27 last year.

Sentences at the District Court are capped at seven years. Photo: Warton Li
Sentences at the District Court are capped at seven years. Photo: Warton Li

He was also accused of conspiring to publish seditious articles between April 29 and October 27 of the same year, an offence that carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a HK$5,000 (US$645) fine for a first offence.

The money-laundering charges, punishable by up to 14 years in prison and a HK$5 million (US$645,000) fine, accuse Chung of handling more than HK$716,000 through a PayPal account and a bank account between January 2, 2018 and October 27, 2020.

The case was adjourned for plea at the District Court on January 28.

Chung did not apply for bail.

This article National security law: Hong Kong student activist facing up to seven years in prison after change of trial venue first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2021.