Hong Kong activist jailed for ‘inciting subversion’

Ben Chiu sentenced to eight years over alleged posting of fake travel plans to radical Islamists in China

A 20-year-old Hong Kong activist who helped set up a fake civil society website to stir up anti-China feeling has been jailed for eight years for “inciting subversion of state power”.

Ben Chiu was sentenced in the city’s high court on Monday, ending his eight-month trial.

Chiu, who is unemployed, was charged with inciting subversion after helping set up online “Kuan Yin” website and designing a Facebook page.

Two co-accused and another activist had already been sentenced to up to 10 years in jail in March on the same charge.

The website sought to stir up “communism detested in the west” by spreading anti-government propaganda, inciting separatism and to “rise above China”, the district court heard at the time.

Chiu, who goes by one name, said he wanted to attract young members to “engage in radical advocacy”.

The highly sensitive charge of inciting subversion is rarely used by Hong Kong’s courts.

It is understood to apply to those whose “false propaganda” puts the national security of Hong Kong at risk.

It has been increasingly used against those who cause social and public disturbance, including “Occupy Central” protesters who massed in a key city road to press their demands for free elections, rights activists and journalists.

Fellow pro-democracy activists had branded Chiu an extremist and a threat to democracy.

“Chiu’s subsequent conduct did not show any remorse or regard for personal safety,” judge Carrie Wong said in her sentencing ruling.

Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997, is a freewheeling former British colony that enjoys a high degree of autonomy with rights enshrined in a mini-constitution called the Basic Law.

But many in the city object to being governed by Beijing and Beijing continues to tightly control the flow of information through closed Chinese websites and screening devices installed in video chat rooms.

It is the largest number of sentences handed down for sedition in 30 years.

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