A teenage Hong Kong democracy activist was charged on Thursday with secession, money laundering and conspiracy to publish seditious material, as one of the first people to be targeted under a controversial new national security law.
Tony Chung, 19, who has been denied bail, appeared in court two days after he was arrested by plainclothes police in a Hong Kong coffee shop near the US consulate where he reportedly intended to seek asylum.
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.
Mr Chung was formerly the leader of Hong Kong pro-independence group Studentlocalism which was disbanded before Beijing imposed the sweeping law on June 30, with the intent of crushing pro-democracy protests that had roiled the Asian financial hub for a year.
He 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.
Amnesty International called for Mr Chung’s release and for charges to be dropped.
“The intensifying attack on human rights in Hong Kong has been ramped up another notch with this politically motivated arrest in which a peaceful student activist has been charged and detained solely because the authorities disagree with his views,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Amnesty’s China team.
A little-known group calling itself Friends of Hong Kong told The Telegraph after Mr Chung's arrest on Tuesday that it had been trying to arrange for him and four other people, including one American citizen, to enter the US consulate that day and apply for asylum.
It said the four other people, who also have pending charges against them, were in a safe location, adding that the Liberal Democrat party was advocated for further assistance for the group from the British government.