Início » Hong Kong top court affirms mandatory sentences under security law

Hong Kong top court affirms mandatory sentences under security law

Hong Kong's top court on Tuesday issued a landmark ruling affirming mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of national security crimes, potentially affecting dozens of pro-democracy figures standing trial or appealing jail terms.

The national security law Beijing imposed on Hong Kong in 2020 after months of democracy protests sets out minimum jail terms for serious offences, a feature rarely seen in the former British colony’s criminal justice system.

The Court of Final Appeal heard earlier this month that a strict interpretation of the security law when it came to jail sentences would be “unfair and unjust” to university student Lui Sai-yu.

The 26-year-old Lui, who was convicted of “incitement to secession” last year and handed five years in prison, had appealed his sentence.

He argued he should have benefited from a one-third sentence reduction given to those who plead guilty — a practice typically adopted by judges under Hong Kong’s common law system.

But Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal on Tuesday ruled unanimously that the security law used “mandatory language” in describing the length of jail terms.

For inciting secession, crimes of a “serious nature” will see offenders jailed for “not less than five years but not more than 10 years”, according to the law.

The judges said there are only three ways for convicts to trim their sentences, which are set out in the law in an “exhaustive” list.

The purpose of the rule was to “provide… an incentive to desist from committing offences, to assist the authorities in the suppression of activities endangering national security and to facilitate law enforcement”, they added.

Tuesday’s decision effectively lays down binding sentencing procedures for future national security cases.

Among the most high-profile cases are jailed pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai — who will be tried for foreign collusion in December — as well as 47 opposition figures tried for national security crimes.

Lui was the fourth person jailed under Hong Kong’s security law after the court found that he advocated for Hong Kong separatism and resisting communist rule on the messaging app Telegram.

At trial, the court heard that Lui’s messages include “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” — a protest slogan now deemed illegal.

As of June, police had arrested 260 people under the security law and around 60 percent had been charged.

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