First person charged under HK security law
The first person charged under Hong Kong's national security law was found guilty yesterday of terrorism and inciting secession in a landmark case that carries long-term implications for how the legislation will reshape the city's common law traditions.
Former waiter Tong Ying-kit, 24, was accused of driving his motorcycle into three riot policemen while carrying a flag with the protest slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times," which prosecutors said was secessionist.
The widely anticipated ruling, much of which has hinged on the interpretation of the slogan, imposes new limits on free speech in the former British colony. Pro-democracy activists and human rights groups have also criticised the decision to deny Tong bail and a jury trial, which have been key features of Hong Kong's rule of law.
His trial was presided over by judges Esther Toh, Anthea Pang and Wilson Chan, picked by city leader Carrie Lam to hear national security cases. Toh read out a summary of the ruling in court, saying "such display of the words was capable of inciting others to commit secession."
She added that Tong was aware of the slogan's secessionist meaning, and that he intended to communicate this meaning to others. He also had a "political agenda" and his actions caused "grave harm to society".
Tong had pleaded not guilty to all charges, which stemmed from events on July 1, 2020, shortly after the law was enacted.
The governments in Beijing and Hong Kong have said repeatedly the security law was necessary to bring stability after the often-violent 2019 protests and that the rights and freedoms promised to the city upon its return to Chinese rule in 1997 remain intact.