Ma Chun-man sentenced to more than five years in prison for chanting independence slogans during demonstrations.

A Hong Kong man who often wore a “Captain America” shield and became a fixture in the pro-democracy protests that swept through the semi-autonomous city in 2019 was sentenced to more than five years in prison.

Ma Chun-man, a 31-year-old food delivery driver known in the protest movement as “Captain America 2.0” after the comic book hero of the same name, was convicted last month by a judge for inciting secession for chanting pro-Hong Kong independence slogans and the display of placards, as well as comments to reporters.

His conviction was the second under a sweeping national security law imposed by mainland China on the city last year in response to widespread protests. The law has been widely criticized as a way to purge political opponents and crush individual freedoms Hong Kong maintains under an agreement between China and the former British colonizer, which is due to end in 2047.

Ma’s conviction and long sentence are particularly significant because they indicate that the approach authorities are likely to take as a multitude of trials under the new law, which prohibits anything Beijing considers to be subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion. , appear in court.

Unlike the case of Tong Ying-kit, who was the first person convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison for allegedly riding his motorcycle in the police while waving a protest flag, Ma’s case did not involved violence.

“It is difficult to guarantee that other people incited by him will not become another Ma Chun-man,” Stanley Chan, a judge specially chosen by the government to judge national security cases, said Thursday.

“Whether he used violence, whether he challenged law enforcement, whether his ideas were recognized by others – it doesn’t matter,” Chan added.

‘I am not ashamed’

Ma is accused of chanting “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” and “Hong Kong independence, the only way out”.

Authorities also seized a notebook titled “The American Captain’s Resistance Diary” during their investigation.

In a handwritten letter to the court, Ma called himself a “dreamless man” who was inspired by pro-democracy rallies in shopping malls.

“I am not ashamed or regret for what I did,” he wrote.

Prior to the sentencing, defense attorney Edwin Choy called for leniency, saying Ma’s slogans and chants were empty words with little impact. Ma did not commit any violent acts and was not someone who would encourage violence, Choy argued.

More than 100 people, including many of the city’s most prominent opposition politicians and activists, have been charged under the security law. Most have been denied bail.

On Thursday, Amnesty International called Ma’s conviction “outrageous” and said restrictions on freedom of expression in Hong Kong were “dangerously disproportionate”.

“The Hong Kong government must stop continually expanding its definition of ‘endangering national security’ as a means of locking up people who express views that it does not like,” the secretary-general said Amnesty Assistant, Kyle Ward.