A Hong Kong teenager has been sentenced to a training centre for breaching the colonial-era sedition law and insulting the Chinese national anthem and national flag.

Chief Magistrate Victor So on Wednesday ordered 18-year-old Chui Hoi-chun to serve time in a training centre, an alternative to imprisonment for offenders aged 14 to 20. Chui will be detained for at least six months, while the maximum detention length is capped at three years, subject to his conduct.

national day north point
North Point decked out with Chinese national flags on the 73rd anniversary of the founding of China on October 1, 2022. Photo: HKFP.

The teenager pleaded guilty last month to doing an act or acts with seditious intent by posting on discussion forum LIHKG, YouTube and communications app Discord between May 28, 2020 and September 27 this year.

He also admitted to three counts of insulting the national anthem and national flag, including publishing altered lyrics of “March of the Volunteers.”

When handing down the sentence at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts, So said the 29 posts by Chui were “anti-regime” and included using profanities to “curse” the leader of China and mainland Chinese people. The posts also advocated Hong Kong independence and the content was “extremely insulting,” the court ruled.

“If the defendant’s thoughts were not curbed as soon as possible, it would cause instability and division in society,” So remarked, adding Chui’s offences were “continuous” and lasted for around 28 months.

West Kowloon Law Courts Building
West Kowloon Law Courts Building. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The defence had asked for a lenient sentence and said Chui, who was 16 when the offences began, broke the law because he was “immature.” But the chief magistrate pointed to Chui’s psychological report, which said the defendant had participated in the 2019 extradition bill protests and did not condemn the violence used by protesters.

Sending Chui to a training centre would help “correct” his values, So said, adding that sentencing him to a detention centre or a rehabilitation centre, as suggested by defence counsel Steven Kwan, would not reflect the severity of Chui’s offences.

Sedition is not covered by the Beijing-imposed national security law, which targets secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts and mandates up to life in prison. Those convicted under the sedition law – last amended in the 1970s when Hong Kong was still a British colony – face a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

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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.