Hong Kong Begins Trial of First National Security Law Defendant

Motorcyclist Tong Ying-kit stands accused of “terrorism” and “inciting secession” after he flew a banned slogan while riding down a street on July 1, 2020.

National security law defendant Tong Ying-kit stood trial for “secession” in Hong Kong on Wednesday, after he rode a motorbike at a protest, carrying a flag bearing the words “Free Hong Kong, revolution now!” 

Tong’s trial opened at the High Court, with the 24-year-old facing charges of “terrorism” and “inciting secession.”

Dozens of supporters and a large number of journalists from around the world lined up for a spot in the courtroom early on Wednesday.

Tong seemed calm, wearing a blue jacket, a black shirt and glasses, and made use of simultaneous interpretation, as the trial proceedings were conducted in English.

He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him as they were read out.

Video posted to Twitter claiming to show his interaction with a group of police officers during protests against a draconian national security law showed a motorbike rider coming down a street that was clear of police officers at the time.

The next shot shows the rider being ambushed and pulled from his bike by police, although he is accused of deliberately riding into them.

An alternate charge to the one of “terrorism” accuses Tong of “causing grievous bodily harm by dangerous driving.”

Tong has been held on remand for nearly a year, with repeated applications for bail and a writ of habeas corpus rejected by judges.

He has also been denied a jury trial, with his case being heard instead by a a panel of three government-picked national security judges.

Rejection of Chinese rule

Prosecutors’ opening statement focused on the slogan on Tong’s flag, which was banned when the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed the National Security Law for Hong Kong on the city, and which prosecution lawyers said “connoted independence.”

The “Free Hong Kong” part implied the city needed to be rescued from an enemy, the CCP, while “Revolution now!” implied a rejection of Chinese rule over the city, acting deputy director of public prosecutions, Anthony Chau told the court.

The trial is expected to call 22 witnesses and last for around two weeks.

The national security law, which saw China’s feared state security police set up a headquarters in Hong Kong to oversee “serious” cases, has been widely criticized by governments, rights groups, and lawyers as an assault on Hong Kong’s traditional freedoms of speech, association, and political participation.

On Jan. 6, 2021, 53 pro-democracy activists and former opposition lawmakers were arrested for “subversion” under the law after they held a democratic primary designed to maximize their chances of winning seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo).

The authorities responded by postponing the election and arresting those who took part in the primary.

Of those arrested, 47 currently await trial on “subversion” charges, with 12 granted bail — some only after several months in detention — and the rest remaining in prison pending trial.

Reported by Lau Siu Fung and Matt Chan for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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