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Hong Kong teen jailed four months for China flag insult and unlawful assembly

HONG KONG (AFP) – A Hong Kong teenager was on Tuesday (Dec 29) ordered to spend four months in prison for insulting China’s national flag and unlawful assembly.

Tony Chung, 19, who led a now-disbanded pro-democracy group, was convicted earlier this month for throwing the Chinese flag to the ground outside Hong Kong’s legislature in May 2019.

The incident happened during scuffles between rival supporters as pro-democracy lawmakers inside the legislature tried to prevent the passing of a now-abandoned extradition Bill.

Chung is the first public political figure prosecuted under the new security law, which Beijing described as a “sword” to return order and stability to the financial hub after seven months of massive, often violent pro-democracy protests last year.

He was sentenced to three months each for insulting the national flag and unlawful assembly, and told to serve four months behind bars.

While serving his sentence, Chung will be waiting for trial over a charge of secession, which could land him life imprisonment according to the national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong on June 30.

The teen is also facing separate charges of money laundering and conspiring to publish seditious content.

Chung was arrested by plainclothes police opposite the United States consulate in Hong Kong in late October and had been remanded in custody since.

Speculation has swirled that the authorities moved on Chung because he was hoping to ask for asylum at the US consulate.

An increasing number of pro-democracy activists across the political spectrum have fled Hong Kong since Beijing stepped up its crackdown on the city’s protests against China’s authoritarian rule.

Under the security law, dissenting speech instead of acts can be alleged of vague yet severe offences like “subversion” and “collusion with foreign forces”.

The law has also toppled the legal firewall between Hong Kong’s internationally recognised common law judiciary and the opaque justice system in mainland China by allowing extradition of suspects across the border for trial.

Last Sunday, China’s state TV CGTN reported that Hong Kong police had put 30 people who are not currently in Hong Kong on its wanted list for suspicion of breaching the national security law, including self-exiled activists Ted Hui and Baggio Leung.

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Prominent activists who remain in Hong Kong – such as Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow – have either been jailed or face frequent arrests and multiple charges.

Jimmy Lai, a pro-democracy media mogul who is also charged with the national security law, has been placed under house arrest and stripped of public speech – his Twitter account included – as Hong Kong’s High Court granted him bail last week.

The decision, however, provoked serious criticism from China, which threatened to extradite Lai to the mainland for trial.

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