First modification: 07/30/2021 – 15:09
Tong Ying-kit, a 24-year-old former waiter, was charged with “inciting subversion” and “terrorism” by a Hong Kong court for allegedly attacking the police during the 2019 anti-government demonstrations. Tong is the first convicted in the framework of the controversial national security law, which the opposition and human rights groups consider to violate freedom of expression.
Hong Kong first applied the controversial national security law against one of its citizens for taking part in anti-government protests during 2020. Tong Ying-kit, a 24-year-old waiter, was sentenced to nine years in prison for alleged crimes of “ incite subversion ”and“ terrorism ”.
The protester crashed his motorcycle into three riot police with a banner reading “Free Hong Kong. The Revolution of our days ”, a few hours after the national security law came into force in the former British colony, on July 1, 2020.
Tong’s defenders have tried at all times to maintain that the defendant was totally innocent of these charges and assured upon leaving the court that they will appeal the sentence. Although prior to the summons, an attempt was made to obtain bail, the request was rejected by the authorities.
The trial has been marked by controversy from the first moment because those who carried it out were three judges appointed by the island’s government leader, Carrie Lam, with the approval of Beijing. Judges Esther Toh, Anthea Pang and Wilson Chan are in charge of handling all possible cases involving a violation of national security law and this time they saw “incitement to secession” in the Tong attack.
The main argument they made is that acts like those of Tong encourage other Hong Kongers to “fight” for the separation of this city from the rest of China, a red line that the Chinese authorities are not willing to cross. Basically, the trial focused more on the slogan that he carried and called for “freedom” for Hong Kong than on the damages that he could cause to the agents.
“We consider that this global term should sufficiently reflect the guilt of the accused in the two crimes and the hatred of society, at the same time, achieving the required deterrent effect,” they stated in a written sentence.
A jury did not intervene in the trial, a common procedure in Hong Kong justice. The judicial authorities claimed to fear for the personal safety of the possible people selected for the trial and that this could influence their decision.
Hong Kong Justice, in the spotlight
For many human rights groups, the sentence represents a further step in the degradation of Hong Kong’s rule of law and judicial system. For decades and even after joining China in 1997, the former colony was considered exemplary in this matter, but in recent years this has changed.
It has happened especially since the implementation of the national security law, an imposed element that seems not only to inject fear into the protesters, but also acts against them with high prison sentences. In fact, the maximum contemplated for all people who commit the crime of secession since July 1, 2020 is life imprisonment.
Hong Kong and the Chinese authorities repeatedly asserted that all rights and freedoms promised to the former British colony upon its return to China are intact, but that national security is a red line. From Beijing they interpret the protests as a threat promoted by foreign agents and seeking secession from Hong Kong.
However, in recent years, and especially in 2019, the outlawing of members of the opposition to Beijing and the change of fundamental pillars of democracy in some state institutions has been constant.
With Reuters and EFE