A teenager in Hong Kong has been ordered to spend four months in jail for insulting China’s national flag and the illegal assembly, as Beijing is increasingly targeting leading financial center activists.
Tony Chung, 19, who led a now-defunct pro-democracy group, was found guilty this month of dropping the Chinese flag on the ground in May 2019 amid quarrels outside the Hong Kong legislature.
While serving his sentence, he will await trial for segregation, which could lead to life in prison, according to the draconian law on national security that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong on June 30.
Chung is 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 and 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. The teenager is also facing various charges of money laundering and conspiracy to publish inflammatory content.
Chung was arrested by regular police at the U.S. Consulate in October and has been in custody ever since.
Authorities have speculated that Chung may have sought refuge at the US consulate in Hong Kong.
A growing number of pro-democracy activists across the political spectrum have fled Hong Kong since Beijing increased its protest against 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 forces’.
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, Chinese state television CGTN reported that Hong Kong police had put thirty people who are not in Hong Kong on the popular list on suspicion of violating national security law, including activists Ted Hui and Baggio Leung.
Prominent activists remaining in Hong Kong have been jailed – including Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow – or are regularly arrested and face several charges.
Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy media magnate, has also been charged under national law. Last week, the Hong Kong High Court granted bail out of jail but placed him under house arrest. It also ordered him to hand over all travel documents and forbade him to speak to the press, make public statements, use social media, meet foreign officials and ‘cooperate with foreign forces’.
The verdict provoked fierce criticism from China, which threatened to extradite Lai to the mainland for trial.