A man in Hong Kong was sentenced to nine years in prison on Friday in the first ruling under Hong Kong’s new national security law.
During protests last year, Tong Ying-kit, a 24-year-old man, drove a motorcycle into a group of police officers while he was holding a flag with the message, “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.”
“This overall term should sufficiently reflect the defendant’s culpability in the two offenses and the abhorrence of society, at the same time, achieving the deterrent effect required,” a group of three judges wrote in the ruling, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Tong “was sentenced to 6½ years in jail for inciting secession and eight years for terrorism, to be served partly consecutively and partly concurrently, resulting in a total of nine years’ imprisonment,” per The Journal.
There was no jury for the trial and the judges were chosen by Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, due to the new controversial security law.
Tong did not plead guilty to the charges and the judges said that, if he had, his sentence would not have been as long. Because of the alleged gravity of his offenses, “his good character is not of any mitigating value,” the judges added.
As The Daily Wire reported earlier this week, Hong Kong put forth its first guilty conviction under the controversial “National Security Law” that went into effect last summer.
“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,” per The Daily Wire.
According to Amnesty International, the 2020 national security law is especially restrictive and unclear. Among other concerns, “[u]nder this new law ‘secession’, ‘subversion’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘collusion with foreign forces’ incur maximum penalties of life imprisonment,” the group reported.
Many have noted that the law appears to be intended to quell pro-democracy movements and stifle any criticism of the government. This is not the first time that the new law has made headlines around the world. Last month, Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily was raided by Hong Kong police, and five newspaper executives and editors at the newspaper were taken into custody under Hong Kong’s national security law, as reported by NPR.
Experts watched the most recent case in order to see how the new security law will be enforced.
“It may appear lenient, as life imprisonment was a possibility. But in my view, it is not: The objective of the [national security law] is not merely to punish but also to prevent and deter others,” said Surya Deva, an associate professor of law at City University of Hong Kong. “So swift and serious penalties should be expected.”
Tong’s sentence is a “hammer blow to free speech” and reveals that the law is “a tool to instill terror” in critics of the government, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director, Yamini Mishra, said in a statement, per The Associated Press.
The law “lacks any exemption for legitimate expression or protest,” Mishra said. “The judgment at no point considered Tong’s rights to freedom of expression and protest.”
As the AP reported:
The U.S. government, in a statement, criticized the “unjust outcome” of Tong’s trial and said the security law was used “as a political weapon to silence dissenting voices.” It said China is undermining rights guaranteed by Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, and by the 1984 Chinese-British Joint Declaration on the territory’s return.
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