Hong Kong man given nine-year sentence in first national security law case

Tong found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession after driving motorcycle into riot police

Tong Ying-kit, who was found guilty of inciting secession and terrorism. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

Tong Ying-kit, who was found guilty of inciting secession and terrorism. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

 

The first person to be convicted under Hong Kong’s national security law, Tong Ying-kit, has been sentenced to nine years in prison, in a case that has underlined the wide application of the tough legislation.

Tong was found guilty of terrorism and inciting secession on Tuesday after the 24-year-old former waiter injured three officers when he rode a motorbike into a police line at a protest on July 1st last year, the first day the law took effect.

Tong was bearing a black flag emblazoned with the words “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of Our Times”, a phrase that was a common refrain of anti-government protests in the territory in 2019.

Hong Kong’s high court sentenced Tong to a total of nine years’ imprisonment, with 6½ years for inciting secession and eight years for terrorism. Tong appeared calm as he listened to the sentence.

The prosecution of Tong under the law, rather than other regulations such as those dealing with dangerous driving, highlighted authorities’ determination to crack down on participants in the territory’s pro-democracy protests.

The judges said: “Any person in [Hong Kong] who commits secession or carries out any act undermining national unification or inciting other persons to do so must be suitably punished.”

Analysts said the ruling set a precedent for the authorities to classify violent acts involving government critics as terrorism.

Eric Yan-ho Lai, the Hong Kong law fellow of the Georgetown Center for Asian Law, said: “Prosecutors and judges can now take advantage of this verdict to justify charges of promoting seditious speech against citizens and activists.”

Pro-Beijing lawyers told Chinese state media outlet Global Times that it was now established that terrorist acts in Hong Kong were “violent act[s]\ done with a political agenda in mind”.

Dozens of pro-democracy supporters watched live feeds of the sentencing from a separate courtroom. One middle-aged woman, who was angered by the court’s decision, shouted: “Tong Ying-kit, we will wait for you.”

In a break with the city’s common law tradition, the case was not heard by a jury but by three judges picked by Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, to hear national security cases.

“We consider that this overall term should sufficiently reflect the defendant’s culpability in the two offences and the abhorrence of society, at the same time, achieving the deterrent effect required,” said Judge Esther Toh in the courtroom.

Clive Grossman SC, Tong’s lawyer, told the Financial Times he would appeal against the conviction and sentence. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021