CHINA / SOCIETY
Former HK secessionist group leader gets 43-month jail sentence, serves as ‘warning to secessionists’
Published: Nov 24, 2021 12:08 AM
Hong Kong residents converge on the streets of Causeway Bay on June 30, 2020 to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of returned to China and the enactment of the National Security Law. Photo: VCG

Hong Kong residents converge on the streets of Causeway Bay on June 30, 2020 to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of returned to China and the enactment of the National Security Law. Photo: VCG



The former leader of Hong Kong pro-secessionist group Studentlocalism, Tony Chung Hon-lam, was sentenced to three years and seven months in prison on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to secessionism and money laundering, local media reported on Tuesday. Legal experts hailed it as an appropriate sentencing which would serve as a warning to secessionists. 

Stanley Chan Kwong-chi, designated judge to handle National Security Law cases, said Chung established Studentlocalism in 2016, and promoted their political intentions through the movement. Since the national security law for Hong Kong was implemented in 2020, the group set up a branch in the US and advocated "Hong Kong independence" while using social media platforms to promote secessionism, according to media reports. 

Chung pleaded guilty to secession and money laundering. Between July and October last year, Chung conspired with others to organize, plan, or participate in the commission of acts aimed at secession, and laundered about HK$135,000 ($17,300). 

The judge added that Chung initially participated in political activities, but later became an organizer. He tested the law after the national security law was enacted. 

Chung was sentenced 40 months in jail for secessionism and 18 months for money laundering. 

Lawrence Ma, barrister and chairman of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the sentence is an appropriate one, taking into account the seriousness of the charge, which carries a sentence of between 3 and 10 years. 

"Had he not pleaded guilty [which would extend the sentence automatically by one-third], he would have to serve at least 64.5 months," Ma said. 

The court sent a clear and unequivocal message to the community that secessionism is a very serious offense and the court will impose a hefty penalty on the offender, Ma added. 

Chu Kar-kin, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies and a veteran current affairs commentator based in Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Tuesday that this is a judgment that the Hong Kong community expected. 

"Hong Kong is a city protected by law and order. Nobody can prevail over the law. Any violation of the law will be prosecuted. All law-breakers, secessionists and separatists should learn their lesson," Chu said. 

According to Chu, since its implementation a year ago, national security-related legislation has functioned well and smoothly. Landmark cases now build up and enrich this field of jurisprudence, and the decision highlights the importance of national interests. The mechanism secures Hong Kong's prosperity and safety. Hong Kong is clear from threats, foreign and domestic. 

"We look forward to the local legislation as stipulated in Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, which regulates acts that include, but are not limited to treason, theft of state secrets, establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies, and spying, which have yet to be regulated in the national security law," Chu added. 

Chung was detained last October by the Hong Kong police's national security department while attempting to seek asylum at the US consulate in Hong Kong and Macao.
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