Former Hong Kong independence group leader seeks asylum in Britain

Former Hong Kong independence group leader seeks asylum in Britain
Former Hong Kong independence group leader seeks asylum in Britain

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - In November 2021, Tony Chung, who was then 20, was sentenced to 43 months in prison for trying to separate the city from China, and for money laundering. Chung was charged with secession under the sweeping national security law in 2020 and denied bail. — AFP file pic

WASHINGTON, Dec 29 — The former leader of a Hong Kong pro-independence group, who was sentenced under a national security law imposed by China, fled to Britain and will seek asylum over there, he told the Washington Post.

Why it is important

In November 2021, Tony Chung, who was then 20, was sentenced to 43 months in prison for trying to separate the city from China, and for money laundering. Chung was charged with secession under the sweeping national security law in 2020 and denied bail.

Beijing imposed the national security law on the Asian financial hub in 2020 after months of anti-government protests. The law punishes acts including subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces, and extremism with up to life in prison.

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Key quotes

The trauma of detention and continued surveillance left Chung with a feeling of “immense pressure and fear,” compelling him to leave, he told the newspaper.

Chung also said he was made to take part in a compulsory “deradicalisation” programme in detention.

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Guards “kept telling us (him and others in prison) that the United States government is really bad and that we had been manipulated by the United States,” Chung was quoted as saying. “We felt like we had to agree with them, that we couldn’t disagree or argue back.”

Chung was eventually released in June 2023 after his time was reduced for good behaviour, according to the Washington Post. He plans to continue his studies and told the Post he will contribute everything he can in exile, “just as before.”

Context

Chung is the former leader of Hong Kong pro-independence group Studentlocalism that dissolved in 2020 before the security law came into effect.

Prosecutors had said at the time he was charged that he acted as an administrator for the pages of the US branch of Studentlocalism and an organisation called the Initiative Independence Party. They also said pro-independence T-shirts, flags and books were seized from his home.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of a high degree of autonomy. Democracy activists and some Western governments say China broke that promise, an allegation that Beijing denies. — Reuters

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