Asylum seeker denied bail over secession rap

Top News | Erin Chan 30 Oct 2020

Former Studentlocalism convener Tony Chung Hon-lam has been remanded in custody until January after appearing in court for allegedly breaching the national security law and other charges.

Chung, 19, faces one count of secession under the national security law, two counts of money laundering and conspiracy to publish seditious material.

West Kowloon magistrate Victor So Wai-tak refused bail for Chung, saying there is a high risk of the teenager fleeing, and ordered him remanded in custody until his next court hearing on January 7.

Chung has become the second person to be charged with secession under the national security law.

The court heard that Chung attempted to separate Hong Kong from China or alter the SAR's legal status unlawfully between July 1 and October 27, along with other people.

Secession under the national security law is punishable by up to life imprisonment.

The court heard that Chung conspired with other persons to publish seditious articles between November 30, 2018 and June 9, during which time he "excited inhabitants of Hong Kong to attempt to procure the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any other matter in Hong Kong as by law established."

The sedition charge is subject to a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and a HK$5,000 fine for a first offense.

One of the money-laundering charges - punishable by 14 years' imprisonment and a HK$5 million fine - accuse Chung of depositing HK$133,417.69 into his PayPal account from January 19, 2018 to July 29. Another money laundering charge accuses Chung of depositing HK$564,318.19 into his HSBC bank account between August 27, 2019 and July 29 this year.

Senior assistant director of public prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang requested for no plea to be taken since police need time to inspect Chung's mobile phone, computer, bank statements and the messages Chung was said to have published on social media.

Chau added that officers would also need more time to investigate three to four of Chung's accomplices.

Magistrate So said the rejection of Chung's bail was made in accordance with the requirement for granting bail under Article 42 of the national security law, which states the court should ban the temporary release of defendants unless it is convinced the defendant will not continue to endanger national security and the criminal procedure ordinance.

The national security law bans acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. It is punishable by up to life imprisonment, with a minimum of 10 years in severe cases.

Friends of Hong Kong confirmed that Chung and four other activists - including an American-born Hongkonger - attempted to seek asylum from the US consul general on Tuesday.

The London-based democratic advocacy group slammed the diplomatic mission for being reluctant to offer help to the five.

It said the five sought the help of the group as they were worried they might lose their personal freedom in Hong Kong.

It also said it was rare for the United States to grant political asylum to Chinese pro-democracy personnel, but said that Chung tried to seek asylum anyway given his prominent role in political activities.

Editorial: Naive asylum bid a road to nowhere

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