The first person charged under Hong Kong’s controversial national security law could face life in prison after three judges found Tong Ying-kit guilty of inciting secession and terrorism charges on Tuesday.
The landmark ruling, which came 13 months after the law imposed by Beijing, has marked implications on how the legislation reshapes Hong Kong’s common law traditions.
Tong Ying-kit, a 24-year-old former waiter, was accused of ramming a motorcycle into three police officers while carrying a flag with the slogan of “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” on 1 July last year, shortly after the law was enacted.
Tong has pleaded not guilty to charges of terrorism and inciting secession, as well as an alternative charge of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.
The three-judge panel at Hong Kong’s high court found the slogan with the words “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” was capable of inciting others to commit secession regarding the natural and reasonable effect of displaying the flag and in the particular circumstances of this case.
“When the defendant displayed the slogan in the manner he did, he intended to communicate the secessionist meaning of the slogan to others, and he intended to incite others to commit secession by separating Hong Kong from China,” according to the verdict.
Judges also found that the defendant’s failure to stop at all the police check lines, eventually crashing into the police, was a deliberate challenge mounted against the police.
“The defendant’s acts had caused grave harm to the society, and the defendant carried out those acts with a view to intimidating the public in order to pursue political agenda”.
Tong, who was denied bail and a jury trial, is set to be sentenced to jail of several years to life.
The court adjourned mitigation hearings to Thursday.
The Hong Kong national security law, imposed by Beijing on 30 June 2020, criminalises what China considers as subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Three judges that presided Tong’s trial were picked by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.