Hong Kong teenager sentenced to 4 months in prison for insulting Chinese flag

A teenager in Hong Kong on Tuesday was ordered to spend four months in jail for insulting China’s national flag and the illegal assembly, as Beijing increasingly targets leading financial center activists. Tony Chung, a 19-year-old who led a now-defunct pro-democracy group, was found guilty earlier this month of dropping the Chinese flag on the ground in May 2019 during an altercation outside the Hong Kong legislature.

While serving his sentence, he will await trial on a charge of ‘separation’, which he says could result in life in prison. draconian national security legislation Beijing was imposed on Hong Kong on June 30.

Chung was the first public political figure to be prosecuted under the new security law, which Beijing described as a ‘sword’ to return ‘order and stability’ to the financial center after seven months of massive, often violent pro-democracy protests last year.

He was each sentenced to three months for insulting the national flag and the illegal assembly, and was ordered to serve four months behind bars.

Activists arrested in Hong Kong
On this January 1, 2019, a photo, the independent protester Tony Chung, leaves during an annual New Year’s rally in Hong Kong.

Kin Cheung / AP

The teenager is also facing various charges of money laundering and conspiracy to publish inflammatory content.

In late October, Chung was arrested by ordinary police at the U.S. Consulate and has since been detained.

Rumor has it that the authorities moved to Chung because he was hoping to seek asylum at the US Consulate in Hong Kong.

A growing number of pro-democracy activists across the political spectrum have fled Hong Kong since Beijing stepped up its fight against the city’s protests against China’s authoritarian rule.

Under the Security Act, deviant speech can be alleged instead of acts of vague but serious offenses such as ‘undermining’ and ‘collusion with foreign powers’.

The law also overturned the legal firewall between Hong Kong’s internationally recognized common law judiciary and the opaque, party – controlled legal system in mainland China by allowing the extradition of suspects across the border for trial.

Last Sunday, China’s state television CGTN reported that Hong Kong police had put thirty people not currently in Hong Kong on the wanted list on suspicion of violating national security law, including activists Ted Hui and Baggio Leung.

Prominent activists remain imprisoned in Hong Kong, such as Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, or are regularly arrested and face several charges.

Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy media magnate who is also charged with the National Security Act, has been placed under house arrest and stripped of public speaking – including his Twitter account – as the Hong Kong High Court granted him bail last week.

However, the decision drew serious criticism from China, which threatened to extradite Lai to the mainland for trial.