United Kingdom

First person tried under Hong Kong's national security law is found guilty of terrorism

The first person to be tried under Hong Kong's national security law has been found guilty of terrorism. 

Activist Tong Ying-kit, 24, faces life in prison after he was convicted for waving a flag bearing a protest slogan. 

He drove a motorbike into a group of police officers while holding the flag, which read 'Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times', on July 1, 2020.

The apparent stunt came a day after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on Hong Kong following months of anti-government protests in 2019. 

Ying-kit pleaded not guilty to charges of inciting secession, terrorism and an alternative charge of dangerous driving. 

Activist Tong Ying-kit (pictured arriving in court on July 6, 2020), who is the first person to be tried under Hong Kong's national security law, has been found guilty of terrorism

Activist Tong Ying-kit, 24, faces life in prison after he was convicted for driving a motorbike into a group of police officers while waving a flag bearing a protest slogan 'Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times', on July 1, 2020

Ying-kit (pictured, the prison van carrying Ying-kit arrives at court on July 27) pleaded not guilty to charges of inciting secession, terrorism and an alternative charge of dangerous driving

His lawyers argued it was impossible to prove he was inciting secession by merely using the slogan. 

The defence added there was no evidence Ying-kit committed the act deliberately, that he avoided crashing into officers and that his actions couldn't be considered terrorism since there was no serious violence or harm to society.

They are expected to ask for leniency at sentencing on Thursday. 

The verdict was closely watched for indications as to how similar cases will be dealt with in future as more than 100 people have been arrested under the security legislation. 

The trial, which ended on July 20, was held without a jury in Hong Kong High Court and presided over by a judge handpicked by Chief Executive Carrie Lam. 

Yong-kit's apparent stunt came a day after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on Hong Kong following months of anti-government protests in 2019

The trial, which ended on July 20, was closely watched for indications as to how similar cases will be dealt with in future as over 100 people have been arrested under the security legislation

Trials can be held without jurors under Hong Kong's common law system in cases involving state secrets or foreign forces, or for the personal safety of the jury.

While Hong Kong has its own Legislative Council, Beijing's ceremonial legislature imposed the national security law on the semiautonomous city after it determined the body was unable to pass the legislation itself because of political opposition.

It followed the increasingly violent 2019 protests against China's growing influence over the city's affairs, despite commitments to allow the city to maintain its own system for 50 years after the 1997 handover from British rule.

China's legislature has mandated changes to the makeup of the city's Legislative Council to ensure an overwhelming pro-Beijing majority, and required that only those it determines 'patriots' can hold office.

The national security law was mandated by the Chinese legislature following increasingly violent protests against China's growing influence in Hong Kong 

The trial, which ended on July 20, was held without a jury in Hong Kong High Court and presided over by a judge handpicked by Chief Executive Carrie Lam (pictured)

Authorities have banned the protest slogan 'Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,' stating that it has secessionist connotations. 

Library books and school curricula have also been investigated for alleged secessionist messages.

Hong Kong's last remaining pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, was forced out of business last month and a court denied bail for four editors and journalists held on charges of endangering national security as part of the widening crackdown.

Beijing has dismissed criticisms, saying it is merely restoring order to the city and instituting they same type of national security protections found in other countries. 

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