Hong Kong Motorcyclist Gets Nine Years For Flying Banned Slogan, Riding Towards Police
By Chung Kuang-cheng, Man Hoi Yan and Emily Chan 2021-07-30 -- A court in Hong Kong on Friday handed down a nine-year jail term to motorcyclist Tong Ying-kit for "terrorism" and inciting "secession" after he flew a banned slogan from his bike during a street protest.
Tong's sentencing came after a 15-day trial before a panel of three hand-picked national security judges and no jury during which much of the case revolved around whether the slogan he flew -- Free Hong Kong, revolution now!" -- was definitely an incitement to secession.
He is the first person to be sentenced under a draconian national security law that was imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.
The judges said Tong's offense was "serious" and therefore deserving of a jail term of between five and 10 years, but said his call for "secession" hadn't come with a plan attached, and that he had committed the offense alone.
They said that while the police officers who brought him and his motorbike down weren't seriously injured, Tong's actions were pre-planned, and his bike was a "lethal weapon."
Judges Esther Toh, Anthea Pang. and Wilson Chan found that Tong, 24, had aimed at "intimidating the public in order to pursue a political agenda."
Tong was jailed for six-and-a-half years for the "incitement to secession" charge, and eight years for the terrorism charge, with two-and-a-half years served consecutively.
His defense lawyers said they would appeal both the guilty verdict and the sentence.
Tong told his supporters outside the court, in a message relayed by his attorney: ""Thank you for your concern and support. The time will pass quickly."
The national security law carries a maximum jail term of life imprisonment for "terrorism" and up to 10 years' imprisonment for "secession."
A student supporter who gave only the surname Chan said there was a stark contrast between the sentencing of white-shirted mobsters who were jailed for seven years for beating train passengers and bystanders in Yuen Long MTR on July 21, 2019, and Tong's sentence.
"The white-shirt brigade got seven years for beating up all those people, claiming to defend their homeland," Chan said. "Now Tong Ying-kit has gotten nine years."
Arrests under the new law
Police have made at least 138 arrests under the law since it took effect, including 47 former opposition lawmakers and pro-democracy politicians who took part in a democratic primary in July 2020, who are awaiting trial for "subversion" for their involvement in the candidate selection poll.
Chung Kim-wah, deputy chief executive of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI), said Tong's sentence was harsh, so as to serve as a deterrent to anyone trying to keep the 2019 protest movement alive.
"If you remember, a taxi driver broke someone's foot with his vehicle and the attorney general not only didn't prosecute, but dropped the case entirely," Chung said. "A police officer also rode into demonstrators with a motorbike."
"The whole thing was quite unfair, and I think this case has done quite serious damage to Hong Kong's judicial system," he said.
Former Causeway Books executive Lam Wing-kei, who fled Hong Kong after being detained by Chinese police over banned political books sold in Hong Kong, said the sentence made him sad.
"All he did was ride towards them on a motorbike," Lam said. "The biggest charge was around the Free Hong Kong slogan, which means that there is no more freedom of speech in Hong Kong now."
"You can get nine years just for the simplest slogan."
National anthem booed
Meanwhile, police said they made an arrest after people allegedly booed the national anthem during an Olympic broadcast at a shopping mall in Kwun Tong.
The incident was reported as fans gathered to watch fencer Edgar Cheung take a gold medal for Hong Kong in the men's foil final, defeating Italian champion Daniele Garozzo.
The alleged boos, which are now illegal in Hong Kong, came during the medal ceremony.
"When they played the national anthem, [somebody] raised the Hong Kong and U.K. flag, and incited others present to cheers and even shouted out some slogans," senior superintendent Chung Lai Yi told reporters. "We will investigate suspected crimes against the national anthem."
"We will also collect evidence to see whether or not any breach of the national security law or other laws occurred," he said.
The arrest came as Hong Kong swimmer Siobhan Haughey, 23, took a silver medal in the 100 meters freestyle final at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.
Her win came just two days after she took Hong Kong's first-ever swimming medal - silver in the 200 meters freestyle. She is the only Hongkonger to win two Olympic medals.
Before Haughey and Cheung's victories, Hong Kong athletes had won a total of three Olympic medals, gold, silver, and bronze.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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