Five Hong Kong teenagers convicted in first security case involving minors

Five teenagers from a Hong Kong group advocating independence from Chinese rule were ordered by a judge on Saturday to serve up to three years in a penitentiary for calling for “armed revolution” in a national security case.

The five, some of whom were minors aged between 15 and 18 at the time of the alleged offence, had pleaded guilty to “inciting others to subvert state authority” through a group called Returning Valiant.

The sentences for two others, aged 21 and 26, will be issued at a later date.

Judge Kwok Wai-kin explained how the defendants had advocated a “bloody revolution” to overthrow the Chinese state in street stalls and on Instagram and Facebook after a sweeping national security law imposed by China was passed.

Kwok called the alleged incitement a serious crime, but still took into account their “age and immaturity” as he sentenced them to an education center, or youth detention center, instead of prison.

The length of stay, with a maximum of three years, is left to the penitentiary authorities to decide.

“Even if just one person is instigated by them, the social stability of Hong Kong and the safety of the residents may be seriously endangered,” Kwok added.

“There is no direct evidence that anyone was incited by the defendants to undermine state authority, but that real danger exists.”

Four of the five have already been remanded in custody for more than a year, with only one granted bail.

Prosecutors Anthony Chau and Stella Lo earlier told the court that the group’s leaflets cited the French and Ukrainian Revolutions as examples of successful armed uprisings and quoted Mao Zedong that a revolution is “a violent act of one class overthrowing another”.

Prosecutors explained how police had seized flags, leaflets, air guns, ammunition and expandable batons from an industrial building.

At least 22 people linked to the group were arrested last year. Several face a separate charge of conspiracy to commit terrorism under the Security Act.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong say the security law has restored stability to the global financial hub after massive anti-government and pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Human rights experts at the United Nations Human Rights Commission, however, called for the law to be repealed in a July report amid concerns that it is being used to suppress fundamental freedoms.

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