First person convicted under new Hong Kong security law, faces life in prison

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Tong Ying-kit , who is accused of deliberately driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers on July 1, arrives in West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts in Hong Kong on July 6, 2020. CHINA DAILY

In Hong Kong’s first conviction under China’s National Security Law for the special administrative region, the city’s High Court on July 27 found that a motorcyclist who rammed police officers was guilty of terrorism and incitement to secession. Leon Tong Ying-kit faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.

A three-judge High Court panel designated for national security cases ruled that during a protest last year, Tong had intentionally incited others to separate Hong Kong from China and “seriously jeopardised public safety”.

During a protest in Wan Chai district on July 1 last year, Tong, now 24, struck three police officers with his motorcycle. He also had with him a flag bearing the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” that was a signature rallying call during the 2019 social unrest.

The former waiter was arrested and charged with terrorism, incitement to secession and dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm. His case was first heard on June 23 in a trial that lasted for 16 days.

According to articles 24 and 21 of the law, the terrorism offence can lead to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while conviction on the charge of incitement to secession can bring up to 10 years in prison.

The judges held that the slogan carried secessionist meaning and the display of the words was capable of inciting others to commit secession.

Understanding the meaning, the defendant intended to communicate it to others and incite them to commit secession, the court said, adding that the slogan reflected a “political agenda” advocated by the defendant at the time.

The court also found that the defendant’s crashing into the police officers was a deliberate challenge mounted against the police, “a symbol of Hong Kong’s law and order”.

The act involved “serious violence” against others that caused “grave harm” to society and “seriously jeopardised public safety”. It was carried out with a view to “intimidating the public in order to pursue a political agenda”, the court found.

Evidence showed that despite repeated warnings, including the firing of pepper balls, the defendant drove through three police cordons and rammed into police officers at the fourth. He accelerated the motorcycle either before or after arriving at each police line, according to the court.

Three officers were knocked to the ground, suffering multiple injuries. One whose left wrist was seriously injured has not yet recovered, and reportedly even twisting open a water bottle is difficult.

The court ruled that every element of the offences in the incitement and terrorism counts had been proved, so there was “no need” to deal with the charge of dangerous driving. The court will hear the defendant’s mitigation plea on the morning of July 29.

As of July 26, police had arrested 138 people on suspicion of endangering national security, and 76 of them were later charged. Three companies were also charged under the National Security Law, the Security Bureau said in reply to a query from China Daily on July 26.

In a social media post on July 27, lawmaker and solicitor Holden Chow Ho-ding said that the first conviction in a National Security Law case sent a message to Hong Kong society that the law is of “great significance” in deterring acts endangering national security and safeguarding public order.