A Hong Kong teen pro-democracy activist was sentenced to four months in jail on Tuesday for insulting China’s national flag and unlawful assembly during protest in May last year, as Beijing increasingly targets prominent activists from the financial hub.
Tony Chung, 19-year-old leader of a now-disbanded pro-democracy group, was convicted earlier this month for throwing the Chinese flag to the ground during protests over the now-withdrawn controversial extradition bill.
He is also awaiting trial on secession charges that could extend his jail sentence to a longer period under Hong Kong’s sweeping national security law imposed by China in June this year.
The court ruled that the teenage activist, who appeared before Magistrate Peony Wong Nga-yan, had undermined the dignity of the flag by snapping its pole into two and throwing it in the air.
He is the first public political figure to be prosecuted under Hong Kong’s controversial new national security law that is reportedly being used to exert greater control in the city and to quell anti-government protests.
Pro-democracy activists of the former British colony had been protesting over China’s alleged bid to alter the region’s autonomy.
Chung’s sentencing comes as China intensified a crackdown on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists, with prominent persons such as Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam jailed for several months.
The teenager had remained in custody since October when he was arrested outside the US consulate in Hong Kong by police in civil clothes. The UK-based activists group Friends of Hong Kong claimed that he was planning to seek asylum at the US consulate.
Another pro-democracy voice in Hong Kong, media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who is charged with national security law, has been under house arrest after he was granted bail on 23 December.
The new law punishes actions of secession, sedition, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with long jail terms.
The law has been widely condemned by several countries across the world, terming it “sweeping” and “ill-defined.”
China has however defended it; dismissing the criticism by saying the law is important for peace and to prevent pro-democracy protests. (Source: Independent UK)