A man from Hong Kong was convicted this Tuesday of terrorism and incitement to secession, in the first trial conducted under the controversial national security law that China imposed on this former British colony.
Three judges found Tong Ying-kit, a 24-year-old former groom, guilty on the grounds that he held a banner containing a message “capable of inciting other people to commit an act of secession” and was therefore illegal.
The young man was accused of hitting police officers during a protest on July 1 of last year and carry a banner with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our time”, very popular in the demonstrations.
Clive Grossman, the lawyer who represented Tong Ying-kit at his trial in Hong Kong. Photo: EFE
By crashing his motorcycle against the agents “he seriously endangered public safety,” says the verdict to the justify conviction for terrorism. “We convicted the defendant on both charges,” Judge Esther Toh said.
Tong Ying-kit, who had pleaded not guilty and now facing life in prison, you will learn later about the penalty imposed for these events, which occurred one day after the enactment of the national security law for Hong Kong.
The 15-day trial was conducted without a jury, a change in the financial center’s legal tradition. The three judges who failed were appointed by local authorities to try national security crimes.
More than 60 people have been charged under this law, including some of the most recognized pro-democracy activists such as Jimmy Lai, owner of the closed Apple Daily newspaper. Most await trial in prison.
A protester wearing a Tong Ying-kit T-shirt stands outside the courthouse in Hong Kong. Photo: EFE
Analysts believe that Tuesday’s ruling shows that the justice of this semi-autonomous city interprets security law broadly, along the lines of mainland China, more authoritarian.
“The whole system, from administration to law enforcement to the judiciary, has reached alignment,” Eric Lai, an expert on the Hong Kong legal system at Georgetown Law School, told AFP.
Surya Deva, from Hong Kong City University Law School, estimated that “all institutions and legal processes will be oriented to achieve predetermined results” in national security cases.
In mainland China, the opaque courts answer to the ruling Communist Party and the sentence is practically assured in political cases or national security.
A Department of Corrections vehicle in which Tong Ying-kit was presumed to be traveling leaves the Hong Kong court. Photo: EFE
Hong Kong has its own legal system, internationally recognized and which is the basis of its status as a financial center.
During the trial, defense experts assured that the motto of the flag had multiple meanings, depending on the person: from a claim for independence to others of greater democracy and police responsibility.
For the prosecution, on the other hand, it had clear separatist overtones and Tong’s decision to crash his motorcycle into the police met the definition of terrorism in the new law.
His case was unusual, because he is one of the few people arrested under this legislation for a violent act. Most awaiting trial were arrested for expressing political views that authorities now consider illegal.
A security officer stands at the door of the Hong Kong court where the trial took place. Photo: EFE
Pro-democracy activists and many Western countries claim that security law is changing Hong Kong in the image of China. Beijing says it was necessary to restore stability after the 2019 protests.
Since then, this legislation has radically transformed the political and legal landscape of the city, to which China promised it could maintain key freedoms and autonomy. after the end of British rule in 1997.