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First Hong Kong resident found guilty under Hong Kong's sweeping national security law

A 24-year-old restaurant worker was found guilty of inciting secession and terrorism.

Updated: July 27, 2021 - 8:31am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

 A Hong Kong resident on Tuesday became the first person to be found guilty under the recently enacted law to curtail the pro-democracy protests in the city that officials say are a national security threat. 

The resident, Tong Ying-kit, was found guilty of inciting secession and terrorism for driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers last year while carrying a flag bearing the banned protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” according to the Associated Press.

Tong, a 24-year-old restaurant worker, pleaded not guilty to the charges, arguing the slogan itself does not call for secession. He now faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, but his lawyers are expected to argue for a lighter punishment at his sentencing hearing Thursday.

The sweeping national security law was enacted last year by Hong Kong and China’s ruling Communist Party following the large-scale pro-democracy protest in 2019 in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory in which residents until recently have enjoyed more freedoms than those on the mainland.

The proceedings, which ended July 20, were held in the Hong Kong High Court with no jury, under rules allowing the exception from Hong Kong’s common law system if state secrets need to be protected, foreign forces are involved or if the personal safety of jurors needs to be protected, the wire service also reports. 

Trials are presided over by judges handpicked by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.

More than 100 people have been arrested under the legislation, with Tong’s trial expected to be the format for upcoming ones. 

Tong’s defense lawyer has said it’s impossible to prove that his client was inciting secession merely by having used the slogan.

The verdict was immediately condemned by Amnesty International, which called it “the beginning of the end for freedom of expression in Hong Kong.”

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