Hong Kong activist Tony Chung, who has been remanded in custody for over a year, may admit to committing secession and one count of money laundering, after the defence reached a plea agreement with the city’s prosecutors.

The former convenor of Studentlocalism appeared at the District Court on Tuesday morning on the first day of his week-long trial. The hearing was adjourned to Wednesday for the 20-year-old to submit a plea, after the prosecution presented 60-odd pages of amended case summary to Chung’s lawyers shortly before the hearing.

District Court
District Court. Photo: GovHK.

Senior Counsel Edwin Choy said he needed time to go through the summary of facts with Chung, and District Judge Stanley Chan agreed the court had to be “fair” to the defence and allow them a day to take instructions.

Chung was the second person in Hong Kong to be charged under the Beijing-imposed security law following his arrest in October last year. The former student localist leader is facing four charges in total, including conspiracy to publish seditious materials outlawed by the colonial-era Crimes Ordinance, secession and two counts of money laundering.

Led by senior public prosecutor Ivan Cheung, the prosecution said that, if Chung pleads guilty to secession and one of the money laundering offences, they may not proceed with the other two charges. The deal is subject to Chung’s official plea on Wednesday, however, and whether the activist agrees with the prosecution’s case.

Tony Chung Hon-lam
Tony Chung Hon-lam. Photo: HKFP.

Dressed in a blue blazer and white shirt, Chung exchanged glances with his friends and supporters during the brief hearing. When he was escorted away by corrections officers, the people in the public gallery chanted: “Take care. Add oil!”

At the beginning of the hearing, Chan warned the court attendees not to yell and make noise during the proceedings. He said the public must respect the criminal court with or without the presence of the judge.

“Whether there is a political flavour to the [shouting] or not, it is not allowed,” he said, as a man stood up and walked out of the courtroom while the judge was speaking.

National security law
Photo: GovHK.

Any person convicted of committing secession in Hong Kong could face up to life imprisonment. But the maximum jail term is capped at seven years for any case tried in the District Court.

So far, two Hongkongers have been found guilty of breaching the national security law after trial. Activist Tong Ying-kit was jailed for nine years for inciting secession and engaging in terrorist acts, while Ma Chun-man is awaiting his sentence after being convicted of inciting secession.

Pro-democracy activist Andy Li and paralegal Chan Tsz-wah became the first people to admit guilt under the sweeping legislation. Their case, which centres around an alleged conspiracy with media mogul Jimmy Lai to collude with foreign forces, was adjourned to January next year.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.