A former Hong Kong university student who received a five-year prison term over a national security law charge has filed an application to appeal his sentence.

Lui Sai-yu, who was a first-year Polytechnic University student at the time of his prosecution, pleaded guilty to inciting secession under the Beijing-imposed national security law in April this year.

High Court
High Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The now 25-year-old was initially sentenced to three years and eight months in jail, after District Court Judge Amanda Woodcock took a starting point of five years and six months, and applied a one-third deduction on the prison term as Lui pleaded guilty.

However, the judge walked back her decision after the prosecution said that the national security law stipulated a minimum five-year jail term for offences of a serious nature. Woodcock eventually sentenced Lui to five years behind bars.

The Department of Justice confirmed Lui’s application for leave to appeal with HKFP on Thursday.

According to the prosecution’s submissions in April this year, Lui was one of the administrators of a public channel on messaging app Telegram, the translated title of which was Channel of Anti-Communism and Hong Kong Independence. The channel was created on December 14, 2019.

Judge Amanda Woodcock
Judge Amanda Woodcock. File Photo: Judiciary.

The prosecution also flagged posts made by Lui after the national security law was imposed by Beijing in June 2020, including some that said “Hong Kong independence [is] the only way out.”

The sweeping security legislation also criminalised subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.

First case with minimum sentence

Lui’s case was the first security law case where a minimum jail term was applied. The university student was first arrested in September 2020 on suspicion of selling weapons on social media.

The 25-year-old was then charged under the national security law in April last year for allegedly inciting others to organise, plan, commit or take part in acts of secession between June 30 and September 24, 2020.

By the time Lui pleaded guilty and was handed his sentence, he had spent around 19 months remanded in custody.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.