Hong Kong’s first convicted of national security crime jailed for nine years
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Hong Kong (AFP)
A Hong Kong server was jailed for nine years on Friday after becoming the first person to be convicted under a sweeping new national security law that Beijing has imposed on the city to stamp out dissent.
Tong Ying-kit, 24, was convicted on Tuesday of terrorism for riding a motorcycle on three policemen and secession for waving a flag in protest at a rally on July 1 last year, the day after. the promulgation of the law on national security.
The trial was a watershed moment that set a new milestone in the city’s changing legal landscape and confirmed that some banned political slogans now carry long prison terms.
The flag Tong flew read “Free Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time”, a chant that was omnipresent during the huge and often violent pro-democracy protests that rocked the city two years ago.
His trial proceeded without a jury – a significant departure from Hong Kong common law tradition – and was decided by three judges handpicked by the city chief to try national security crimes .
These judges ruled that Tong riding his bicycle in the police met the bar for terrorism while the flag he was flying was capable of “inciting secession”.
They sentenced him to eight years on the first count and six and a half years on the second, but said part of the sentence could be served simultaneously, which would result in a total of nine years.
Tong’s offenses, the judges said, were “serious in nature” but were “not the worst of their kind.”
The decision has profound implications for future national security cases.
More than 60 people have been charged under the law, including some of the city’s best-known Democratic activists, such as Jimmy Lai, owner of the now-closed Apple Daily.
Most are now in prison awaiting trial. National security crimes can go as far as life imprisonment.
– Crowded grounds –
China is currently reshaping Hong Kong into its own authoritarian image in response to the 2019 protests.
The security law has criminalized many dissent, and the authorities have embarked on a campaign to root out anyone deemed unpatriotic.
Tong’s conviction came after days of frenzied police and court activity, illustrating the scale of this campaign.
Hours before Tong’s imprisonment, Chow Hang-tung, a lawyer and democracy activist, appeared in court to plead not guilty to encouraging Hong Kong people to mark June 4 the anniversary of the murderous crackdown on the Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.
“Mourning is not a crime. I plead not guilty,” she told the court.
In a separate hearing across town, law professor Benny Tai – a key leader of the democracy protests in 2014 – faced new charges brought by the town’s anti-corruption watchdog.
Tai and two others are charged with “illegal conduct” for expenses incurred when they ran ads for pro-democracy candidates in local elections five years ago.
Tai, 57, has been jailed several times for his involvement in pro-democracy causes and is currently in detention on national security grounds.
In another court, radio show host Tam Tak-chi was halfway through a sedition trial in connection with the first use of colonial-era law since the city’s handover in 1997 by Britain to China.
Tam has been charged with sedition for a number of slogans he used over the past year, including “Free Hong Kong, revolution of our time”, “Corrupt cops, your whole family goes to hell”, “Dissolve the police of Hong Kong, do not delay “and” Down with the Chinese Communist Party “.
The law had not been used for decades but was dusted off by police and prosecutors last year.
Police also announced on Friday that they were investigating Olympic Games fans who booed the Chinese national anthem and drowned it with chants during a public screening at a mall on Monday night.
Authorities passed a law last year prohibiting insulting the national anthem and the Chinese flag.
Authorities also said a teenager and a 26-year-old man were arrested on charges of “criminal intimidation” following Facebook posts urging consumers to boycott advertisers from a local news channel deemed pro-government. by many democracy activists.
© 2021 AFP