Hong Kong teen activist Tony Chung charged

A teenage Hong Kong democracy activist was charged on Thursday with secession, the first public political figure to be prosecuted under a sweeping new national security law Beijing imposed on the city.

Tony Chung, 19, appeared in court charged with secession, money laundering and conspiring to publish seditious content, two days after he was arrested by plainclothes police in a Hong Kong coffee shop opposite the US consulate.

He was remanded into custody until his next court hearing on 7 January and faces between 10 years to life in prison if convicted under the new law.

Chung is a former member of Student Localism, a small group that advocates Hong Kong’s independence from China.

The group said it disbanded its Hong Kong network shortly before Beijing blanketed the city in its new security law in late June but kept its international chapters going.

The legislation — a response to huge and often violent pro-democracy protests that swept the city last year — outlawed a host of new crimes, including expressing certain political views such as advocating independence or greater autonomy for Hong Kong.

Chung and three other members of Student Localism were first arrested by a newly created national security police unit in July on suspicion of inciting secession via social media posts.

A little-known group calling itself Friends of Hong Kong put out a statement shortly afterwards Chung’s arrest on Tuesday saying it had been trying to arrange for Chung to enter the US consulate that day and apply for asylum.

AFP was not able to independently verify the group’s claim. (AFP | Su Xinqi)

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