A Hong Kong activist known as Captain America 2.0 for holding the superhero’s shield at rallies has been jailed for nearly six years under the controversial national security law.
Ma Chun-man was found guilty of inciting secession by chanting pro-independence slogans in Hong Kong.
Ma is the second person to be imprisoned under the law, which was passed in 2020 following protests the year before.
It limits Hong Kong’s autonomy and makes it easier to prosecute activists.
Beijing insists that the widely panned legislation is necessary to bring stability to the city, but critics say it is intended to suppress dissent in Hong Kong.
The case against Ma, 31, was built around slogans he chanted at rallies, signs he held, and media interviews he gave.
On Thursday, he was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison by a Hong Kong court, with the judge accusing Ma of showing no remorse.
“I do not feel any regret,” Ma said in a letter to the judge read out before his sentencing, according to the Reuters news agency.
“I can’t afford to be a coward on my path to democracy and freedom,” he wrote.
Chris Ng, one of Ma’s lawyers, told reporters he wasn’t sure if there would be an appeal.
In 2019, street protests erupted in Hong Kong in response to a proposed law that would have made it easier for China to extradite residents to the mainland. The protests grew into a larger pro-democracy movement that lasted until 2020.
Many see the national security law as Beijing’s response to the protest movement, as well as a means of making it easier for China to arrest dissidents.
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In the year following the law’s passage, Hong Kong authorities arrested 117 people and charged more than 60 others, including democratic politicians, activists, journalists, and students.
More have been charged in the months since, including members of a group known for organising the city’s well-known annual vigil for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The first trial under the law took place earlier this year and ended in Tong Ying-kit, a former waiter, being found guilty of inciting secession and terrorism. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Tong crashed his motorcycle into police officers while waving a protest flag with a protest slogan.
Unlike the first trial, the case against Ma did not involve any allegations of violence; he was tried solely on the basis of his words.
“Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” Ma is said to have chanted, as well as “Hong Kong independence, the only way out.”
His sentence was described as “outrageous” by Amnesty International.
“The Hong Kong government must stop endlessly expanding its definition of ‘endangering national security’ as a means of imprisoning people who express views it does not agree with,” said Amnesty International’s deputy secretary general Kyle Ward.