Tong Ying-kit pleads not guilty to “secession” and “terrorism” charges for riding his motorcycle among a group of police officers.
Tong Ying-kit, the first person charged under Hong Kong’s one-year-old National Security Act, was tried Wednesday on charges of “secession” and “terrorism” for riding a motorcycle wearing a flag calling for the liberation of Chinese territory in a group of police officers.
The 24-year-old, who has pleaded not guilty, is also charged with dangerous driving. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.
The trial, before three judges and without a jury, is the first under the legislation that China imposed last year after months of protests in 2019. Authorities in Hong Kong and China have argued the broad law was necessary to restore stability in Hong Kong after some of the protests turned violent, and was only likely to be enforced in a tiny number of cases.
Critics have said it is being used as a tool to crush the pro-democracy movement with dozens of politicians and activists arrested since its entry into force.
Diplomats from the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were outside the courtroom and proceedings began around 10:45 am (2:45 am GMT), according to Citizen News.
Divya Gopalan of Al Jazeera, who is based in Hong Kong, said the case against Tong was seen as a “historic” case in a jurisdiction where jury trials are seen as the cornerstone of the common law system.
“Many are looking for clues as to how the security business will be conducted,” she said. “There are already fears that this case may undermine the rule of law in Hong Kong. “
Tong was arrested on July 1, hours after the law was imposed, after he purposely rode his motorcycle among a group of police officers during that day’s protests against the security law. The motorbike sported a black flag with the words “Free Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time”, a slogan made illegal by law.
Under security law, cases can be decided by three judges rather than a jury. The three Tong judges were appointed by the territory’s chief executive.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong police said on Wednesday they had arrested a 55-year-old man on suspicion of “collusion” with foreign forces, which is also a breach of security law.
The arrest was linked to last week’s raid on the pro-democracy Apple Daily, police added.
The newspaper, which closing faces after its main editors and executives were arrested and his assets frozen, said the man was a columnist for his Chinese-language newspaper who wrote under the name Li Ping.
Apple Daily owner Jimmy Lai, 73, is also in prison and facing trial on national security grounds. He was deposit refused.