Hong Kong’s first trial under new national security law begins without a jury (2021)
Hong Kong on Wednesday began the trial for the first person charged under its controversial national security law, which has transformed the city’s political landscape since it was imposed by Beijing last year.
Tong Ying-kit, 24, pleaded not guilty to two charges of inciting secession and terrorism activities after allegedly driving his motorbike into a group of police officers and injuring three at a pro-democracy protest last July.
He was allegedly carrying a banner that read “Liberate Hong Kong” at the time — grounds for inciting secession under the new law, prosecutors said.
Tong also faces an alternative charge to the terrorism count of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm, to which he also pleaded not guilty.
The wide-ranging security legislation, which criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign forces, was introduced on June 30, 2020, and carries with it a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The seemingly vague parameters of the law have provided authorities with sweeping powers to crack down heavily on government opponents. Protesters and opposition leaders have been arrested under the law, while others have fled abroad in a slow exodus. The city’s highly popular anti-Beijing tabloid, Apple Daily, announced its closure Wednesday, after the paper’s assets were frozen under the national security law and several of its senior editors arrested.
Under the provisions of the law, Tong’s 15-day trial is being held without a jury, marking a significant departure from Hong Kong’s previous legal system.