Koo Sze-yiu has built wooden coffins by hand having messages that denounced the communist party of China and he would often use them as props during protests in Hong Kong, The New York Times newspaper reported.
On February 4, which was also the opening day of Beijing Winter Olympics, he planned to do the same thing by carrying a homemade wooden coffin to China’s Liaison Office in the city, but national security police raided his apartment and arrested Koo that day before any protest could take place, CNN reported.
A Hong Kong court had sentenced him to nine months in jail under the so-called sedition law for planning to protest against the Olympics earlier this year.
The friends of the Hong Kong activist feared that he could die in prison even while serving a short sentence because he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer.
However, Koo urged the court not to show him mercy before his sentencing, it added.
“I don’t mind being a martyr for democracy and human rights,” Koo said.
“In mainland China there are many political prisoners, prisoners of conscience and political dissidents. Compared with human right lawyers in China, what I have sacrificed is nothing,” he added.
The lawyer of the Hong Kong activist had argued that Koo’s protest plans should not be considered a crime and they did not involve any act of violence.
“It’s so heartless. If they will send this guy with fourth-stage cancer to jail, what about the rest of us? But that’s the new reality those of us in Hong Kong have to accept,” media reported citing Avery Ng, secretary general of the League of Social Democrats.
After the pro-democracy protests began in 2019, Beijing made the national security law in 2020, which crushed dissent on the island territory.
However, Koo had denied a charge of “attempting or preparing to commit an act or acts with seditious intention,” CNN citing public broadcaster RTHK reported.
Prior to his sentence, Koo had been held in custody for more than five months after being denied bail on national security grounds.
Hong Kong’s sedition law was introduced by the British colonial government in 1938, outlawing “hatred or contempt or disaffection” toward the monarch and the colonial administration. It remained on the statutes after the city was handed over to China in 1997, CNN reported.
Unused for decades, the law has been revived by Hong Kong prosecutors amid Beijing’s broad crackdown on civil society following the city’s 2019 pro-democracy protests.