Hong Kong pro-independence teen activist charged with secession
Tony Chung, 19, seen here in a photo taken on August 8, 2020, is a former member of Studentlocalism, a small group that advocated Hong Kong's independence from China. © Isaac Lawrence, AFP (file photo)

A former leader of Hong Kong pro-independence group Studentlocalism was charged on Thursday 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, who was denied bail, was arrested on Tuesday under the contentious legislation that punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, sedition, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in jail.

Like other anti-government organizations, 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 organization that vowed to fight for an independent Hong Kong.

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

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.