Sat, 22 Jan 2022

HONG KONG: Tony Chung, former leader of Hong Kong pro-independence group Studentlocalism, was sentenced to 43 months in prison after being found guilty of charges that included secession and money laundering.

Chung, 20, was charged under a sweeping national security law, in October 2020, and had been denied bail.

Local media reported he was detained, along with two others, at a coffee shop close to the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong by unidentified men.

Chung entered a plea bargain and admitted to the charge of secession and one count of money laundering, while pleading not guilty to sedition and another money laundering charge.

The plea led to a 25 percent reduction in his sentence, totaling 40 months for secession and 18 months for money laundering, but with other reductions, only 43 months will need to be served.

District Court Judge Stanley Chan told the court, "He actively organized, planned and implemented activities to separate the country."

Also, prosecutor Ivan Cheung said Chung acted as an administrator for the Facebook pages of the U.S. branch of Studentlocalism and another organization, the Initiative Independence Party.

The money laundering charge was related to donations he received via PayPal.

Studentlocalism disbanded, along with other anti-government organizations, before Beijing imposed the security law in June 2020.

Under the security law, those found guilty of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces could face a sentence of up to life in prison.

Since the law came into force, most democratic politicians are now in prison or self-exile. Many civil society organizations have also disbanded, while some international rights groups have left the city.

Chinese and Hong Kong authorities claim the legislation was necessary to restore stability after mass street protests in 2019, and deny that it subverts individual rights.

The former British colony returned to China in 1997 with an agreement guaranteeing a high degree of autonomy, but democracy activists and some Western governments accuse China of breaking its promises.

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