A Hong Kong court has refused to grant bail to activist Tony Chung, an ex-convenor of pro-independence group Studentlocalism, who became the second person to be charged with secession under the Beijing-imposed national security law on Thursday.
The 19-year-old also faces two counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to publish seditious materials under colonial-era legislation.
The teenager appeared in the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court after police arrested and detained him – as well as two former members of Studentlocalism, Yanni Ho and William Chan – on Tuesday. Chung was apprehended near the US Consulate General, where he had hoped to seek political asylum, local media reported.
It was the second time the trio was taken into custody on suspicion of inciting secession – an offence under Article 21 of the security law. Officers from the newly-established national security unit arrested them in July over social media content calling for the founding of a “Hong Kong nation.” The pro-independence group had announced an end to their Hong Kong operations hours before the controversial legislation kicked in on June 30.
According to Studentlocalism – which operates abroad, with divisions in the US, Australia and Taiwan – 17-year-old Ho and 21-year-old Chan were released on bail in the early hours of Wednesday. Police have not modified the charges, the group wrote on Facebook.
Studentlocalism asked people to “refrain from” comments about fundraising, saying its ex-leader Chung had to steer clear of financial issues following his money laundering charges.
“To avoid unnecessary legal problems, we urge all organisations and people to please refrain from providing suggestions or information related to funding or fundraising while spreading awareness about this incident,” it said on Tuesday evening.
According to local media, Chung was accused of organising, planning, committing, or participating in acts with a view to commit secession or undermine national unification between July 1 and October 27. The teen activist was also accused of conspiring with others to publish seditious materials from November 30, 2018, to June 9 this year, under a law that was last updated in 1971, during British colonial rule.
Chung’s money laundering charges pointed to his dealings with property believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence, local media reported. One was linked to his PayPal account, which contained HK$133,417.69 between January 19, 2018, and July 29 this year. The other was related to his HSBC account, which contained HK$564,318.19 between August 27 last year and July 29 this year.
The activist was ordered to remain in custody until his next court appearance on January 7, 2021. The prosecution said police have to carry out a further investigation – including checking Chung’s mobile phone, computer, monthly bank statements and social media posts – adding that three or four additional suspects may be involved, according to local media.