9 years in prison for first Hong konger sentenced under controversial security law

The first Hong Kong resident to be convicted under Beijing’s strict, controversial security law in the metropolis was sentenced to nine years in prison on Friday. Tong Ying-kit, 24, a former waiter, was found guilty of terrorism and incitement to separatism on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old drove a motorcycle into three police officers on July 1, 2020, the day the national security law came into effect. At the time, he waved a flag with the slogan ‘liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time’.

His prison term is divided into eight years for the terrorism charge and 6.5 years for the separatism charge. The sentences can largely be served simultaneously and, in practice, constitute a nine-year prison sentence. Tong was injured in the accident and had been using a wheelchair ever since. He has been in custody for a year.

The two-week trial took place without a jury, a complete breach of Hong Kong legal tradition. The Hong Kong executive appointed the three judges to rule on matters affecting national security.

Screenshot from video showing Tong Ying-kit riding a motorcycle into three police officers on July 1, 2020, the day the national security law came into effect.
©AP – Screenshot from video showing Tong Ying-kit riding a motorcycle into three police officers on July 1, 2020, the day the national security law came into effect.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have criticized Tong’s conviction. They argue that the conviction represents a curtailment of freedom of expression in the city.

As the first conviction under the security law, Friday’s verdict is an important indication of how similar cases will be handled in the future. More than 120 people have been arrested under the national security law, including 73-year-old media mogul Jimmy Lai and other pro-democracy militants. More than half have been charged.

The security law prohibits subversive activities, terrorism, the pursuit of independence, and foreign interference: Beijing wants to strengthen its grip on Hong Kong.

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