A Hong Kong man has pleaded guilty to charges of secession, the third person to avoid fighting their case under a vague Beijing-drafted national security law at trial.
Tony Chung, 20, admitted seeking to separate Hong Kong from mainland China between July and October 2020 at the District Court on Wednesday, local news outlet iCable reported. That plea was part of a deal struck with prosecutors that also included submitting to money laundering charges relating to HK$133,000 ($17,000).
Chung faces as many as seven years in prison. Under the plea deal, two charges of money laundering and conspiracy to publish seditious publications will likely not be pursued, the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday.
Both of the two national security trials conducted so far have resulted in guilty verdicts, reinforcing fears the legislation imposed by China will be strictly interpreted amid a sweeping crackdown on political dissent in the Asian financial hub. Like Chung, activist Andy Li and legal assistant Chan Tsz-wah entered guilty pleas in August for allegedly conspiring with media mogul Jimmy Lai to collude with foreign forces. They have yet to be sentenced.
The law’s broad wording, long sentences and restrictions on jury trials put pressure on defendants to plead guilty before facing a panel of judges specially vetted by the city’s leader Chief Executive Carrie Lam. In July, a court handed down a nine-year sentence in the first national security trial, after convicting former waiter Tong Ying-kit of incitement to secession and engaging in terrorist activities for driving a motorcycle into a group of police while carrying a protest banner.
Chung, a former convener of Studentlocalism, was detained in October 2020 at a coffee shop opposite the U.S. consulate, where he had been planning to seek asylum. Days later, he was charged under the security law on suspicion of secession.
Since the security law, which carries prison sentences as long as life in prison, was imposed in June 2020, the government has sought to prosecute some 100 individuals including former opposition lawmakers, pro-democracy activities, journalists and academics.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.