At least 128 arrested people are awaiting trial under the National Security Law in Hong Kong, including three minors, dozens of politicians, and journalists. The first person to be tried under Hong Kong’s new security law was found guilty on July 27.
Tong Ying-kit was found guilty on charges of inciting secession and terrorism after he drove a motorcycle into a group of policemen during Hong Kong’s protests.
Here is all you need to know about how this law will be applied and what it means for Hong Kong:
What is the National Security Law?
The National Security Law was passed last year even as Hong Kongers had been widely protesting against the enactment of the legislation. The law was seen as a way of China clamping down its authority in the city. The law was so unpopular in Hong Kong, which only joined China in 1999, that its 66 articles were not even revealed to the public until after it was passed.
The law in essence criminalised secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign or external forces.
What was the case against Tong Ying-kit?
Ying-kit, 24, was charged with inciting secession and terrorism. The former restaurant worker had been a part of the widespread protests against the passing of the law in Hong Kong. He was charged with terrorism for driving a motorcycle into 3 policemen, and inciting secession for flying a flag calling for Hong Kong’s liberation.
“Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” his flag had read during the protests. While Tong pleaded not guilty, the presiding Justice Esther Toh said Tong “committed terrorist activities causing or intended to cause grave harm to the society.”
The procedure of his trial was dictated by the new law as well. He was denied bail and the case was decided by three judges personally appointed to preside over the case by Carrie Lam. Carrie Lam is the Chief Executive of Hong Kong and Chairperson of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security. Traditionally, cases are decided by a jury of peers in Hong Kong.
Tong now faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for his crimes.
What have Rights groups said?
Yamini Mishra, Asia-Pacific Regional Director of Amnesty International, in a statement, said, “The conviction of Tong Ying-kit is a significant and ominous moment for human rights in Hong Kong. Today’s verdict underlines the sobering fact that expressing certain political opinions in the city is now officially a crime, potentially punishable by life in jail.”
Rogers, Chief Executive of Hong Kong Watch, said that the trial “sets a grim precedent that will open the path to further arrests, prosecutions, and political trials”.
Meanwhile, China has dismissed all criticism, claiming that it is only reestablishing order in the city.
Other activists, leaders and pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong have already been arrested, fleed into exile or silenced to speak up. Hong Kong’s last pro-democracy newspaper, Apple Daily, was forced by authorities to shut down last month as well.
(Edited by : Aditi Gautam)
First Published: IST