19-year-old Tony Chung accused of 'secession'. No bail
by Paul Wang

The former founder of the Studentlocalism group is also accused of money laundering, because he had a bank account and a Paypal account of about 700,000 Hong Kong dollars. He is also accused of "conspiracy" for posting material on social media. The judges apply the new security law and a colonial-era law. Two other former members of the group, Yanni Ho and William Chan, face jail time.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - This morning, a Hong Kong court charged activist Tony Chung with "secession" and denied him bail. Chung, 19, was arrested two days ago in a cafe. According to some media, he was attempting to seek refuge in the nearby US consulate.

The young man is one of the founders of the student group Studentlocalism, which claimed to want to work for full autonomy in Hong Kong. Suspected of wanting independence, the group was dissolved before the launch of the new national security law, imposed by Beijing on the territory. The new law, applied since June 30, condemns acts and activities of secession, subversion, terrorism and collaboration with foreign forces.

Judges also charged Chung with money laundering and conspiracy to publish seditious material, enforcing a law that dates back to the time of the British colony.

The seditious material was reportedly published between November 30, 2018 and June 9 this year - before the security law went into effect - but thanks to that colonial law, Chung faces up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 5 thousand HK dollars.

He is the second person to be sentenced under colonial law. Previously, the judges also condemned another activist for shouting slogans against the police and in favour of Hong Kong, such as "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our time" and "Five demands, not one less", very common in democracy demonstrations last year.

The charge of money laundering - punishable by 14 years in prison - is based on the fact that the young man had a Paypal account worth approximately 700,000 HKD, as well as a bank account. In all likelihood, the money is the result of fundraising for their movement.

The court did not specify the reasons why Chung is accused of sedition. Chung appeared in court along with two other former Studentlocalism members, Yanni Ho and William Chan. Previously, the trio had been accused of suspicion of secession: last July on social media they launched an appeal to establish a "nation of Hong Kong". But after their arrest in July, they were released on bail. This time, National Security Court Judge Victor So Wai-tak rejected Chung's request for bail.