Hong Kong issued its first guilty conviction under the controversial “National Security Law.”
The Chinese Communist Party passed the Hong Kong National Security Law on June 30 of last year; the statute, according to the Biden administration, increases penalties for “secession” and “subversion.” Despite massive protests that attracted international attention, the law gutted civil liberties for residents of Hong Kong.
According to BBC, the first ruling under the measure is a guilty verdict — which may carry a life sentence:
Tong Ying-kit was convicted of inciting secession and terrorism after riding a motorbike into police and flying a flag calling for Hong Kong’s “liberation”… Tuesday’s verdict, which is the culmination of a 15-day trial, means Tong could face life in jail. His sentencing is due at a later date.
He was sentenced at a trial without jury — a departure from Hong Kong’s common law tradition. The defence team had argued for a jury but Hong Kong’s justice secretary argued that the jurors’ safety would be put at risk given the city’s sensitive political climate.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Tong was convicted on July 1, 2020 — the day after the National Security Law was enacted, and the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British to Chinese rule.
Two weeks ago, the Biden administration warned American companies that there are “growing risks” of conducting business in Hong Kong due to the National Security Law:
As noted in the Department of State’s 2021 Hong Kong Policy Act Report, the PRC’s imposition of the NSL on Hong Kong in June 2020 led to major structural changes that significantly reduced Hong Kong’s autonomy. As a result, business and rule of law risks that were formerly limited to mainland China are now increasingly a concern in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong authorities have arrested foreign nationals under the NSL, including one U.S. citizen. Those arrested may have travel documents confiscated and may be prevented from departing Hong Kong. Additionally, the Legislative Council passed an amendment to immigration law on April 28, effective August 1, which could potentially allow Hong Kong authorities to place exit bans on individuals seeking to depart the country, including non-residents.
In recent years, China has significantly ramped up its global ambitions.
During a recent speech commemorating the Chinese Communist Party’s 100th anniversary, President Xi Jinping called a “peaceful national reunification” with Taiwan: “We must take resolute action to utterly defeat any attempt toward ‘Taiwan independence,’ and work together to create a bright future for national rejuvenation. No one should underestimate the resolve, the will, and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”