First person charged under Hong Kong’s national security law sentenced to 9 years

Tong Ying-kit, 24, obtained a six-and-a-half-year jail time period for the cost of incitement to secession for carrying a big black banner emblazoned with the favored anti-government protest slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”

He was additionally given eight years for committing terrorist actions, for crashing his motorbike into a bunch of cops final 12 months, injuring three. Of these, 2.5 years will run consecutively, leading to a complete time period of 9 years.

The national security law, which was promulgated by Beijing on June 30 final 12 months, criminalizes acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with international forces. All carry a most sentence of life in jail.

As the sentencing was learn out, a few of Tong’s supporters within the public gallery shed tears whereas others provided encouragement, telling him to “hang in there,” to which Tong replied, “you guys also hang in there too.”

Speaking exterior the court docket, Tong’s protection lawyer Clive Grossman stated his consumer would enchantment each the sentence and the decision.

Tong’s protection legal professionals had beforehand requested for the minimal sentence of three years, arguing that Tong had been reckless however didn’t intentionally imply to crash into police, and that he had proven regret for his actions.

However, within the conviction ruling on Tuesday, the three judges — handpicked by town’s chief to oversee national security instances — dominated that Tong’s actions had induced “great harm to the society,” and posed a “deliberate challenge to the police.”

An various cost of harmful driving inflicting grievous bodily hurt was not thought of.

Much of Tong’s 15-day trial had hinged on the decide’s interpretation of the protest flag he was carrying, with the prosecution and protection arguing over the semantics, historical past and context of the banner’s slogan — a standard rallying name throughout the pro-democracy, anti-government protests of 2019.

On Tuesday, the judges made clear the slogan was “intended to communicate secessionist meaning” and was “capable of inciting others to commit secession,” doubtlessly laying the groundwork for future convictions associated to the previous mass protest motion.

A take a look at case

As the primary trial under the brand new laws, Tong’s case has been broadly considered as a litmus take a look at for the way the law shall be carried out in court docket within the coming months.

Tong had pleaded not responsible to all expenses, which stemmed from an incident on July 1, 2020, simply in the future after the law was enacted. Tong was denied bail and his trial held with out a jury, in a major departure from the frequent law traditions that Hong Kong’s authorized system had beforehand adopted.

As of Monday, police have arrested 138 individuals and charged 76 under the law. Those arrested embrace college students, activists, former lawmakers, journalists, and legal professionals.

The Hong Kong authorities has repeatedly denied that the law’s obscure parameters have been used to censor free speech or stifle political dissent. Carrie Lam, town’s chief, has defended the law as a “crucial step to ending the chaos and violence” of the 2019 protest motion and making certain “long-term stability and prosperity in Hong Kong.”

Rights teams and authorized specialists have criticized Tong’s conviction, nonetheless, arguing that it has laid the groundwork for additional criminalizing types of free speech. “I don’t want to lose sight of the individual, but so much of this, of course, is about the potential chilling effect going forward, in what is already a very frigid atmosphere,” stated Maggie Lewis, a Taiwan-based law professor for Seton Hall University.

According to Lewis, Tong’s sentence was not about how “tolerant or restrictive” authorities could be under the security law, however relatively extra “a question of emphasis” in offering an instance to the general public.

In some ways, the message had already been despatched with Tong’s conviction Tuesday, stated Lewis.

“In reading the judgment, the court did not leave guardrails as far as clarifying some safe space for expressing political opinions that are different from that of the Hong Kong government and Beijing,” stated Lewis.

“That’s now part of the fabric of understanding the national security law. This is not something that is done in isolation, it’s now going to be put on a shelf, it will be referenced by lawyers (and the general public),” she added.

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