Hong Kong’s ‘Captain America’ Protester Gets Almost 6 Years in Prison Over Pro-Democracy Chants

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A Hong Kong court on Nov. 11 handed down a nearly six-year prison sentence to a pro-democracy protester, after ruling that he had violated a Beijing-imposed national security law through certain nonviolent acts, including chanting protest slogans.

Former delivery man Ma Chun-man, 31, dubbed “Captain America 2.0” for wielding the superhero’s shield during protests, was sentenced to five years and nine months in prison for incitement to secession. His conviction was the second under the security law, imposed by the Chinese regime last June.

Ma is the first to be sentenced under the law solely for his speech. A district court judge in October found Ma guilty of inciting secession due to the slogans he chanted, such as the popular pro-democracy chant “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” the placards he held, and statements he made to media.

Ma had pleaded not guilty and did not testify.

During the trial, his defense lawyers argued that Ma was merely exercising his rights to free speech, saying he “merely chanted slogans loudly, appearing alone.” Nor did he harm others nor engage in “open defiance,” his lawyers told the court on Thursday.

Before the sentence was delivered, Ma’s lawyers read out part of a letter Ma wrote to the judge.

“I do not feel any regret,” Ma wrote in the letter, which he signed with his nickname. “On my road to democracy and freedom, I can’t afford to be a coward.”

The judge on Thursday said that Ma “was incited by some politician and he eventually became an instigator himself,” without naming the politician.

“In this context, it’s hard to guarantee there won’t be other Ma Chun-mans,” the judge said.

Ma’s sentence drew condemnation from rights groups.

“It is outrageous that Ma Chun-man has been sentenced to more than five years in prison simply for chanting slogans and sharing his political views online,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Secretary-General Kyle Ward said in a statement. “The Hong Kong government must stop criminalizing mere acts of expression without any demonstrated connection to the use of force or imminent violence.”

The national security law criminalizes any speech or act deemed by Beijing to constitute secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces, offenses carrying a maximum penalty of life in prison. It has been widely criticized by Western governments and rights bodies as a tool used to purge pro-democracy proponents and suppress dissent.

Since last June when the law took effect, over 100 people have been charged under the law or similar offenses, mostly pro-democracy politicians, activists, media figures, and students.

The first person to be convicted under the national security law, Tong Ying-kit, was sentenced in July to nine years in prison. Tong was accused of incitement to secession and engagement in terrorist acts after he drove a motorcycle carrying a banner bearing slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” into a group of policemen in 2020.

Hong Kong courts are set to hand down sentences to three other national security cases this year. Pro-democracy activist Andy Li and the paralegal Chan Tsz-wah in August became the first people to plead guilty to charges under the law. On Nov. 3, 20-year-old student activist Tony Chung, who was preparing to apply for asylum at the U.S. consulate before he was arrested, pleaded guilty to secession. They face up to seven years in prison.

Hong Kong Epoch Times Staff and Reuters contributed to this report.

Dorothy Li


Dorothy Li is a reporter for The Epoch Times based in Europe.

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