Hong Kong jails ‘Captain America’ protester, who wielded the superhero's shield
A Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, who was dubbed ‘Captain America 2.0’ for wielding the superhero's shield at protests, was jailed on Thursday for nearly six years under the country's stringent national security law after a court ruled that he chanted a banned slogan and promoted independence from China. The development comes at a time when Hong Kong authorities are multiplying their crackdown on pro-democracy and anti-China protests using the sweeping security law drafted by Beijing to set stark limits on free speech.
Ma Chun-man, 31, known locally as Captain America 2.0 for the Marvel character he’d sometimes dressed as while protesting, was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison for incitement to secession. The district court ruled last month that his use of slogans, including “liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times” violated the vaguely worded security law. Chun-man, however, had pleaded not guilty to the charges he faced.
The judge, while handing down the sentence on Thursday, said it didn't matter whether the accused, Ma Chun-man, had used violence or attacked law and order officers or not. What matters is that the accused had performed the action (chanting the slogan) with an intention to “incite others to secession”, the judge noted.
For context, Hong Kong has banned the “liberate” slogan under the China-imposed national security law, despite the chant being reverberated and displayed on flags by tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of protesters in the city in recent years.
The sentence for Ma’s non-violent offense is on par with some of the longest verdicts handed down for rioting during the mass anti-government unrest of 2019. A man who joined a stick-wielding mob that attacked protesters and commuters in one suburb was sentenced in July to seven years in prison, while a construction worker who participated in an airport riot where he assaulted a mainland Chinese journalist was jailed in January for 5.5 years.
(With inputs from Bloomberg)