Adam Ma, nicknamed “Second-generation Captain America,” was sentenced to 5 years and 9 months in prison for inciting secession and displaying pro-independence slogans. He appealed the sentence to the High Court—the first case relating to the national security law. Chief Justice of the High Court Jeremy Poon Shiu Chor postponed the verdict until September.
On Nov. 11 last year, District Court Judge Stanley Chan Kwong Chi found Ma guilty of “inciting secession.” During August to November 2020, Adam Ma shouted slogans, such as “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our time” and “Hong Kong independence, the only way out,” in public. He was arrested on Nov. 22 and given the lengthy sentence at trial by Chan.
On June 7, Ma appealed the case to the High Court. The case was heard by Chief Justice Poon, and Justices of Appeal Derek Pang Wai Cheong and Anthea Pang Po Kam. Barristers Edwin Choy and Chris Ng Chung Luen represented Ma, and Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin Hang represented the respondent.
The appellant pointed out that Judge Chan did not objectively analyze the impacts of Ma’s case on Hong Kong, the reasons behind the sentence decision were subjective and opinion oriented, such as thinking the defendant had committed the crime to “show off” and “feel good about himself,” but these reasons do not affect national security.
The appellant further pointed out that Ma did not have a detailed plan nor organization and instead, was just shouting popular slogans with vague content, hence, this case was less serious and did not reach the level of severity justifying a sentence of more than 5 years.
The respondent pointed out that although there is no evidence that Ma used violence, through his actions, including chanting slogans in public and online, calling for secession, and proposing specific actions such as the “Three Strikes,” the defendant’s acts are no less serious than the case of Tang Yingjie and some circumstances are even more serious than the Tang case. Therefore, the respondent said, 5 years imprisonment is the minimum, even if the court considers the starting point to be 5 years, the final sentence should not be less than 5 years of imprisonment after deduction for time served.
The Judge decided that because this is the first appeal relating to the National Security Law, the final verdict will be issued on Sept. 5.
Before the sentence, Adam Ma wrote a long letter in which he said that he made a living by delivering food and had no aspirations until he came across a speech by Edward Leung Tin-kei. He was greatly touched and felt a responsibility to this land: “For the first time I have a dream,” he wrote.
“I am not ashamed and have no regrets for what I have done … I will do my best and do everything to fight for the dream I believe in, and glory to Hong Kong.”
Adam Ma is the second protester to be sentenced since the implementation of the National Security Law in 2020. The defendant in the first case, Tang Yingjie, drove a motorcycle with a flag printed with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” on July 1, 2020. He crashed into three police officers who were trying to stop him. He was sentenced to 9 years in prison on July 27 last year, for “inciting others to secession” and “terrorist activities.”
In Tang’s case, the interpretation of “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” was controversial and the court eventually ruled that it could have meanings of secession and inciting others to secede. After the slogan was seen as evidence for the crime of inciting others to secede, it was the first case of being accused of a crime of words and phrases, under the national security law.