Two Hong Kong members of the self-proclaimed revolutionary group Returning Valiant have been jailed for five years for conspiracy to incite subversion after a judge ruled that their offences under the national security law were of a “serious nature.”
Choi Wing-kit, 21, and Chris Chan Yau-tsun, 26 appeared in front of designated national security judge Kwok Wai-kin at the District Court on Thursday for sentencing.
Choi was given an extra three months for having two retractable batons at his home, making a total of five years and three months for him.
They earlier pleaded guilty to conspiring to incite others to subvert state power between January and May in 2021. Choi also pleaded guilty to possessing offensive weapons.
Advocacy of ‘bloodshed revolutions’
When handing down sentence, Kwok said the offences were of a “serious nature.”
As Choi was the founder of Returning Valiant, Kwok said the only reasonable inference was that the group’s advocacy of “bloodshed revolutions without a bottom line” came from Choi himself.
The judge said he had incited his co-defendants in the case to join his cause, and promoted the group’s ideas to the public at street booths.
Kwok said the founder also acted as the group’s spokesperson during media interviews and hosted a press conference.
In addition, Choi had control over the group’s two Instagram accounts and one Facebook page, which Kwok said could spread their beliefs to “an unlimited amount of people.”
As for Chan, the judge said he did not believe that the defendant was under the influence of others when he committed the offence at the age of 24 after three years of university education and living abroad without his parents for almost eight years.
Instead, Kwok ruled that Chan had “actively agreed” with Returning Valiant’s ideas.
While Chan made no public speeches inciting others to subvert state power, Kwok said he had none the less helped distribute leaflets with such messages and had interpreted during a press conference.
“It was very clear that he attempted to promote their beliefs towards an international audience, which constitutes an serious offence,” Kwok said.
As a result, the judge set the starting point of sentencing at six years for Choi and 5.5 years for Chan.
The judge also determined that the mid-range sentence mandate under the Beijing-imposed national security law was applicable to the two defendants.
While they were charged with “conspiracy” instead of actual subversion, Kwok said they committed the offence multiple times. Under the security legislation, anyone convicted of subversion offences considered “serious” must be jailed for at least five years.
As a result, although both defendants had pleaded guilty, Kwok said their jail terms would only be shortened to five years instead of the full one-third discount.
Last October, five other members of the political group aged between 16 and 19 were sentenced to a training centre, after pleading guilty to the same conspiracy charge.
In a separate case now underway, 16 democrats accused of conspiracy to commit subversion are on trial. Another 31 have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced at the end of the trial.
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