This June 18, 2019 photo shows the Wan Chai Tower in Hong Kong, where the District Court is located. (PHOTO / HKSAR GOVERNMENT)
HONG KONG – Hong Kong activist Tony Chung Hon-lam on Wednesday pleaded guilty to charges of secession and money laundering at the District Court, becoming the first person to admit to the secession crime since the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong.
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Chung, 20, was charged with seeking to separate the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from China or unlawfully altering the SAR’s legal status, which violated Article 20 of the National Security Law for Hong Kong. He was also charged with dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offense.
Founder and convenor of the now-defunct Studentlocalism organization, Tony Chung and the group repeatedly made social media posts calling on Hong Kong people to violently confront the government and seek independence
Founder and convenor of the now-defunct Studentlocalism organization, Chung and the group repeatedly made social media posts calling on Hong Kong people to violently confront the government and seek independence. He also made secessionist statements in live broadcasts, and sold game cards and hoodies containing like-minded remarks.
He also collected HK$133,000 ($17,092) from supporters via a PayPal account to finance the group’s operation.
Chung pleaded guilty to the two charges at Wednesday’s hearing before Judge Stanley Chan Kwong-chi, who is designated to handle national security cases.
The security law, implemented on June 30 last year, aims to prevent and punish crimes of secession, subversion, organization and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with external and foreign forces. While the crime of secession carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, the District Court can only jail those convicted for up to seven years.
The other two counts Chung is facing, include a charge of conspiracy to publish seditious publications and another charge of money laundering, will be left on the court file if his plea is entered.
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Chung had been arrested twice before the current case — on suspicion of damaging the national flag in 2019 and violating the National Security Law for Hong Kong in 2020.
Last December, the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts sentenced Chung to four months in jail for desecrating the national flag and participating in an illegal assembly outside the Legislative Council Complex in May 2019.