Anti-government group Studentlocalism's former leader Tony Chung, 19, has been charged with secession, money laundering and conspiracy to publish seditious material, the latest person to be targeted under Hong Kong's new national security law.

Former convenor of pro-independence group Studentlocalism Tony Chung Hon-lam arrives at West Kowloon Magistrates‘ Courts after he was arrested under the national security law in Hong Kong, China October 15, 2020.
Former convenor of pro-independence group Studentlocalism Tony Chung Hon-lam arrives at West Kowloon Magistrates‘ Courts after he was arrested under the national security law in Hong Kong, China October 15, 2020. (Reuters)

A former leader of Hong Kong's anti-Beijing group Studentlocalism has been charged with secession, money laundering and conspiracy to publish seditious material, the latest person to be targeted under a new national security law.

Tony Chung, 19, appeared in court on Thursday charged with secession, money laundering and conspiring to publish seditious content, two days after he was arrested by plainclothes police in a Hong Kong coffee shop opposite the US consulate.

He was remanded into custody until his next court hearing on 7 January and faces between 10 years to life in prison if convicted under the new law.

Tony Chung was arrested on Tuesday under the controversial legislation that punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, sedition, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail.

READ MORE: Hong Kong arrests opposition lawmakers over 2019 protests

Like other anti-government organisations, Studentlocalism disbanded before Beijing imposed the national security law on China's most free city on June 30.

Chung had been free on bail after being initially arrested under the new legislation in July on suspicion of being involved in an organisation that vowed to fight for an independent Hong Kong.

Two other activists were also arrested on Tuesday and are out on bail.

A little-known group calling itself Friends of Hong Kong put out a statement shortly afterwards Chung's arrest on Tuesday saying it had been trying to arrange for Chung to enter the US consulate that day and apply for asylum.

Beijing said the national security law was necessary to bring stability to the former British colony after a year of sometimes violent anti-government protests.

Critics of the legislation say it is being used to crush wide-ranging freedoms granted to the city when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

At the heart of protests 

Protests that began in June 2019 over a proposed extradition law spread to include demands for more democracy and other grievances.

The proposed law has been withdrawn but protesters still want the resignation of the territory’s leader, Carrie Lam, and other changes.

Protesters complain Beijing and Lam’s government are eroding the autonomy and Western-style civil liberties promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to China in 1997.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies