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A Hong Kong activist detained near the US consulate has been charged



Tony Chung, a Hong Kong Democratic student activist
Tony Chung, a Hong Kong Democratic student activist

Hong Kong teenage activist Tony Chung has been charged under a new national security law just days after he was detained in front of the US consulate.

Mr Chung reportedly planned to enter the consulate and seek asylum.

He faces a possible life sentence if convicted of secession, conspiracy to publish seditious content and money laundering.

Mr Chung, the second person charged under the law, was denied bail by the court.

The controversial law was imposed by China on Hong Kong in June, making it easier to punish protesters and reducing the city̵

7;s autonomy.

The law is comprehensive and gives Beijing extensive powers it has never had before to shape life in the territory.

Critics say the law undermines the city’s judicial independence and rights, such as freedom of speech, and has created a sense of fear and insecurity in Hong Kong.

The United States, which has taken a firm stand against China under the Trump administration, has criticized the arrest.

“Using the Hong Kong National Security Unit to detain a minor in a cafe is reprehensible,” a State Department spokesman said.

Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Amnesty International’s Chinese team, said Chinese authorities had made a “politically motivated arrest” as part of a “growing attack on human rights in Hong Kong”.

What do we know about Chung’s detention?

According to the South China Morning Post, Mr. Chung was detained Tuesday morning in a cafe opposite the US Consulate.

The British-based activist group Friends of Hong Kong said it had planned to enter and seek asylum. Instead, footage taken near the consulate showed him being taken away by police in civilian clothes.

Mr Chung, a former member of the pro-independence group Studentlocalism, had previously said that life under the new law had become more restrictive for him and other activists.

In a recent interview, he told BBC Chinese that he felt he could not speak or act freely and that he “had to worry about the red lines all the time”.

But he also said that the activists had not given up the fight and that “at the right moment we will protest again”.

“Yes, we are losing at the moment. But the road to democracy is always long.”

He will remain in custody until his next court appearance on January 7 next year.

What is the new security law in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong’s National Security Act was imposed by Beijing in June after months of huge pro-democracy protests last year against the extradition bill.

The new law provides for secession, subversive activities of the central government, terrorism or a secret agreement with foreign forces punishable by life imprisonment.

Several of the new forces were arrested in July, including a man carrying the Hong Kong Independence flag.

Critics say it effectively puts an end to the freedoms guaranteed by Beijing for 50 years after the end of British rule in Hong Kong in 1997, but China says it will restore the city’s stability.

Following the passage of the security law, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would offer up to three million Hong Kong residents a chance to settle in Britain and eventually apply for citizenship.

China has criticized the proposal, saying it would take countermeasures against the United Kingdom if it granted Hong Kong residents residence.

Analysis box by Stephen McDonnell, Chinese correspondent
Analysis box by Stephen McDonnell, Chinese correspondent

Only when you relax and ask yourself, “What did Tony Chung actually do?” that you realize how draconian Hong Kong’s state security law is.

Among the accusations against Mr. Chung: that he published on social media, advocating for the independence of Hong Kong.

According to Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Amnesty International’s Chinese team, “a peaceful student activist was charged and detained only because the authorities did not agree with his views.”

Think of another way. Mr. Chung is 19 years old. What views did you express when you were 19? What opinions did others express? Should they have threatened you with life imprisonment for them?

In just a few months, Hong Kong’s pro-Peking camp has used the new national security law to violate the once-lauded freedom of speech in the port. It is nothing more than a disaster for the vast majority of residents who voted for the pro-democracy bloc in the last local elections.

As a document, the proposed law was frightening, but now people see the reality: state security agents grab teenage activists from cafes and take them away, perhaps for the rest of their lives. The shocking reality of the new legal regime is becoming clear on the ground in Hong Kong.


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