Hong Kong martial arts coach jailed for inciting subversion

A martial arts teacher accused of running an armed movement to overthrow Hong Kong and China's governments was jailed for five years on Friday under the city's national security law.

Denis Wong, 60, was arrested in March 2022 in an undercover bust of his martial arts training hall where police said he and an assistant were teaching "combat tai chi".

Police said they had seized weapons, including machetes, crossbows and steel-tipped arrows, during a raid of his home.

Wong later pleaded guilty to inciting subversion, an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong after huge and often violent democracy protests in 2019, with critics saying the law has been used to curtail rights and silence dissent.

Wong was accused of posting anti-government messages on Facebook, including calls to topple the Hong Kong and Chinese governments and setting up a "shadow government and self-defence force".

In his ruling on Friday, Judge Ernest Lin wrote that despite the naivete and infeasibility of Wong's calls for revolution, they were not just idle or impulsive, as he had stockpiled weapons and created a martial arts studio that glorified "supposed martyrs".

There was no evidence that Wong's incitement "had any actual impact on the society," the judge wrote, but added, "Hong Kong was still shell-shocked... it would not be wrong to say that a section of the population was still irrational and gullible."

Wong also pleaded guilty to possessing illegal weapons.

Another defendant in the case, who police had described as Wong's assistant Iry Cheung, pleaded guilty to unlicensed possession of arms and was jailed for 16 months.

More than 230 people have been arrested under Hong Kong's national security law and over 140 of them have faced prosecution.

The city's prison officials said this week that as of the end of last year, 522 people remain in jail in connection to the 2019 protests or national security violations.