Guilty Verdict in First Trial Under Hong Kong Security Law

Tong Ying-kit, the first person charged under Hong Kong’s controversial national security law, was found guilty Tuesday.

The 24-year-old man was convicted of inciting secession and terrorism after being arrested in July last year.

Tong was detained after driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers on the streets while waving a flag calling for Hong Kong’s liberation.

Around 100 people have reportedly faced charges over the controversial law, which reduces the region’s autonomy and facilitates punishment against protesters or activists.

The law was introduced in 2019 after the Chinese government faced several massive pro-democracy protests.

It has been widely criticized both nationally and internationally. However, Beijing insists that the law is necessary to keep the city calm and stable.

The verdict in Tong’s case was issued Tuesday, ending a 15-day trial. Upon being convicted, he could face life in prison.

Tong was sentenced to a trial without a jury, which was seen as a departure from Hong Kong common law.

The defense team for the young protester had argued for a jury.

However, Hong Kong’s justice secretary denied the request, arguing that jurors’ safety would be at risk due to the city’s tense and sensitive political atmosphere.

When he was arrested, Tong carried a black protest flag that read: “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”

According to local media HKFP, Justice Toh said that the phrase had a secessionist meaning, referring to Hong Kong’s separation from the mainland.

Besides, authorities considered that his failure to stop at the police check lines and his eventual clash into the group of officers was a deliberate challenge mounted against the police, local media reported.

“The defendant carried out those acts with a view to intimidating the public in order to pursue his political agenda,” Justice Toh was quoted as saying.

Tuesday’s verdict shows how future cases could be interpreted under the law.

Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said in a statement that Tong’s conviction was a significant moment for human rights in Hong Kong.

“Today’s verdict underlines the sobering fact that expressing certain political opinions in the city is now officially a crime, potentially punishable by life in jail,” she added.