Hong Kong protester gets nine years for first conviction under national security law

The first person convicted under Hong Kong’s national security law was sentenced to nine years for terrorist activities and incitement to secession, judges said Friday in a turning point ruling with long-term implications for the city’s judicial landscape.

Former waiter Tong Ying-kit, 24, was charged with driving his motorcycle into three riot police last year while carrying a flag bearing the protest slogan “Free Hong Kong. Revolution of our time.”

Judges Esther Toh, Anthea Pang and Wilson Chan — chosen by city leader Carrie Lam to handle national security affairs — ruled Tuesday that the slogan was “capable of inciting others to secede.”

On Friday, judges sentenced Tong to 6.5 years for inciting secession and 8 years for terrorist activities. 2.5 years of this run continuously, resulting in a total term of nine years.

“We believe that this general term should adequately reflect the guilt of the accused in the two offenses and the disgust of society, while achieving the required deterrent effect,” they said in a written verdict.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have criticized Tong’s conviction, saying it imposes new limits on freedom of expression, as well as the precedents created by the trial, which they say contrast with Hong Kong’s customary law traditions.

Tong was denied bail in accordance with a provision of the National Security Act that places the responsibility on the defendant to prove that he would not pose a security risk if released. Tong also did not receive a jury trial due to “a perceived risk to the personal safety of jurors and their family members or that the proper administration of justice could be compromised”.

The Hong Kong government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Hong Kong and Chinese authorities have repeatedly said that all the rights and freedoms promised to the former British colony upon its return to Chinese rule in 1997 were intact, but that national security was a red line. All cases have been settled according to the law, both governments said.


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