Two Hong Kong men imprisoned under Hong Kong’s national security law have sought to challenge a lower court’s refusal to reduce their sentences by one-third – a discount customarily applied to those who plead guilty.

returning valiant
Returning Valiant’s logo. Photo: Retuning Valiant, via Facebook.

Choi Wing-kit, 21, and Chris Chan Yau-tsun, 26, were both sentenced to five years in jail this month after earlier pleading guilty to conspiring to incite others to subvert state power. Choi was the founder of self-proclaimed revolutionary group Returning Valiant, of which Chan was a member.

When handing down their sentences, the judge said their offences were of a “serious nature.” Therefore, the mid-range sentence mandate under the Beijing-imposed national security law applied to both defendants, the judge ruled.

According to the security legislation, anyone convicted of a “serious” subversion offence must serve a sentence of at least five years in jail.

High Court
High Court. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

As a result, Choi and Chan – who were originally sentenced to five years and six months in jail – were only given a six-month discount instead of the one-third discount normally applied when a defendant pleads guilty.

Lui Sai-yu’s appeal

Choi and Chan submitted their application to appeal after Lui Sai-yu, a Hong Kong student jailed for five years for inciting secession, sought to take an appeal against his sentence to the Court of Final Appeal.

The 26-year-old, who was a first-year student at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University at the time of his prosecution, was the first person to be denied a one-third sentence discount under the national security law despite his guilty plea.

He was jailed last April for inciting secession over selling weapons on messaging app Telegram, on which he was said to have advocated Hong Kong independence in his posts.

Before seeking to contest the decision at the city’s top court, Lui attempted to challenge the sentence at a lower court, the Court of Appeal. However, that bid was shot down in November.

A week ago, a Hong Kong martial arts coach was also denied a one-third sentence reduction despite pleading guilty to inciting subversion under the security law.

The 59-year-old published online posts inciting others to take part in martial arts classes and learn how to use weapons, and was ruled “an offence of serious nature” by the judge.

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Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.