The first person to be tried under the Hong Kong National Security Act has pleaded not guilty to alleging that he incited secession by driving a motorcycle into police officers carrying a protest flag
HONG KONG – The first person to be tried under the Hong Kong National Security Act pleaded not guilty Wednesday to alleging he incited the session by driving a motorcycle into police officers carrying a protest flag.
Tong Ying-kit was arrested on July 1, 2020, the day after the National Security Act went into effect, for allegedly falling into a crowd of officers carrying a flag with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our time”. Several police officers were shot down and three were injured.
Tong pleaded not guilty to three charges – terrorism, inciting secession and dangerous driving causing serious bodily injury.
The first national security trial comes as China strengthens its state around the semi-autonomous Chinese city after the political unrest of 2019. The Tong trial will set the tone for the way Hong Kong will deal with national security violations. So far, more than 100 people have been arrested under security law, including prominent pro-democracy activists such as media tycoon Jimmy Lai.
The slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our time” was often uttered during anti-government demonstrations in 2019 by protesters demanding broader democratic freedoms.
China has responded to the protests with a series of measures to quell dissent, including a national security law that criminalizes subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign agreements that threaten national security.
The security law calls for Hong Kong’s independence are illegal, and a government announcement last July said the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our time” signifies a call for independence and undermining state power.
The court ruled last month that Tong would be tried without a jury, a departure from the customary law tradition in Hong Kong. Under the National Security Act, a panel of three judges can replace jurors, and the city mayor has the power to appoint judges to handle such cases.
The law provides for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for serious offenders.
Tonga is being tried in the High Court, where penalties are not limited.
Associated Press News Assistant Janice Lo contributed to this report.