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Intellasia East Asia News – 20-year-old Hongkonger sentenced to up to 3 years detention for illegal university protest where he chanted ‘seditious’ slogans

A 20-year-old man has been sentenced to up to three years in detention at a correctional facility for taking part in an illegal protest at a university in Hong Kong two years ago where he led the chanting of “seditious” slogans.

The training centre order imposed by the District Court on Wednesday will extend the time in custody for college dropout Tong Cheuk-him, who previously received shorter terms of correctional training when he was found guilty of 10 charges in two other cases.

Judge Lily Wong Sze-lai said she would offer the defendant one last chance to turn the page and spared him jail time, noting that he was only 18 when he joined the march at Chinese University on November 19, 2020.

But she stressed a custodial sentence was the only appropriate option.

“The unlawful assembly in the present case was serious in certain aspects. The defendant’s role was also very clear,” she added.

Tong pleaded guilty earlier this month to taking part in an unlawful assembly, after prosecutors decided not to pursue a case of conspiracy to utter seditious words against the former VTC Youth College student.

While unlawful assembly offences are punishable by up to five years in jail compared with two years for sedition, the latter has a higher threshold for granting bail if the case is considered to involve a threat to national security.

The court heard the march at the Sha Tin campus involved about 100 participants, who heeded online calls to protest against the university’s decision to move graduation ceremonies online and deprived students of the opportunity to express their views on social issues.

The university was the site of intense battles between anti-government protesters and police around the same time in 2019, when Hong Kong was gripped by social unrest triggered by a now-scrapped extradition bill.

The November rally was also fuelled by anti-government sentiments following the arrest of 12 fugitives, who were intercepted in mainland waters while trying to escape by boat to Taiwan in August 2020.

Cries heard during the demonstration included those deemed unlawful under the Beijing-decreed national security law, such as “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”, “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” and “Self-strengthening of the nation, independence for Hong Kong”.

Tong was seen carrying a large banner and walking in front of the crowd, leading the chanting of slogans at times with a loudhailer.

The 20-year-old and other protesters were also seen singing “Glory to Hong Kong”, the anthem of the 2019 protests, when they arrived at The University Mall.

The defence counsel had attributed Tong’s offence to his depression, immaturity and desire to win recognition from his peers, adding he had been bullied during his early school years.

But Wong on Wednesday pointed out his previous encounters with law enforcement and said the accused had displayed a “very weak awareness to abide by the law”.

A training centre offers vocational instruction and educational programmes in a custodial setting. An offender sentenced to such a facility can serve time for six months to three years, with an average of 11/2 years.

Tong is currently incarcerated at Pik Uk Prison for taking part in an unlawful assembly in a 2019 protest in Tuen Mun, as well as for cruelty to animals.


Category: Hong Kong

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