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Hong Kong student jailed for 2 months under sedition over social media posts in Japan

HONG KONG: A Hong Kong court on Friday (Nov 3) sentenced a student to two months imprisonment for sedition over pro-independence social media posts she published while studying in Japan.

This is the first known Hong Konger convicted under the colonial-era sedition law over online speech in Japan.

Scholars and overseas activists say this case represents an alarming escalation of the chilling effect experienced by those who continue to engage with Hong Kong affairs.

Chief Magistrate Victor So sentenced the student to two months in jail after her guilty plea, saying deterrent sentencing was needed because “ignorant people would be incited subtly”.

Mika Yuen, 23, pleaded guilty to sedition in late October, for 13 pro-Hong Kong independence social media posts on Facebook and Instagram published between September 2018 and March 2023.

According to the prosecutor, most of the posts were published when she was studying in Japan, with messages like: “I am a Hongkonger; I advocate for Hong Kong independence” and “Hong Kong independence, the only way out”.

Among the 13 alleged social media posts, only two posts were published in Hong Kong.

She was arrested in March after returning to the city to renew her identity card.

The defence had earlier disputed whether the magistrate’s court had extraterritorial jurisdiction over the posts she published aboard, but they abandoned the dispute as she didn’t remove the content.


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During mitigation, defence lawyer Steven Kwan argued that the number of friends and followers on Yuen’s social media account was relatively small.

Kwan said Yuen has become more open-minded after studying politics at a law school in Japan and that the chance of re-offending is low.

Sedition is punishable by a maximum jail term of two years upon conviction. It is not among the offences criminalised by the Beijing-imposed national security law, but it has been ruled by the Court of Final Appeal as an act that can endanger national security.

Tomoko Ako, a sociology and China studies professor at the University of Tokyo told Reuters that the Japanese government, universities and society need to take this case seriously.

“I am concerned about the situation in Japan. This is because the freedoms that we have taken for granted are being slowly and steadily taken away, yet very few people see this as a serious problem,” Ako said.

Athena Tong, a board member of the Japan Hong Kong Democracy Alliance told Reuters that this case “exemplifies the extent to which the government represses freedom of speech on a global scale”.

“It has significantly influenced how members of the Hong Kong diaspora perceive the safety of travelling to Hong Kong for personal matters,” Tong said, adding that a return to the city might entail political prosecution.

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