by Kendall Tietz
A Hong Kong pro-democracy protestor was sentenced to nine years in prison in the first prosecution under the country’s new national security law, the Associated Press reported.
Tong Ying-ki was convicted Tuesday on charges of inciting secession and terrorism for allegedly driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers with a flag donning the banned slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” at a July rally in 2020, the AP reported. Tong pleaded not guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 6 1/2 years and eight years respectively on Friday, which judges ruled could be served concurrently for 9 years.
The sentencing of Tong Ying-kit to nine years confirms fears that the national security law is not merely a tool to instill terror into government critics in #HongKong; it is a weapon that will be used to incarcerate them. https://t.co/Gjkx3yc94Y
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) July 30, 2021
Tong’s case is the first prosecution under Hong Kong’s national security law enacted by President Xi Jinping’s government after protests broke out in mid-2019 to tighten the Chinese Communist Party’s control over the former British colony and semi-autonomous state, the AP reported. Critics of the law say it is being used as a tool to crack down on dissent in opposition to the Chinese regime.
His lawyers said his flag didn’t encourage succession and that he did not mean to drive his motorcycle into the police officers at last year’s rally, The Hill reported. The prosecution requested Tong serve three years, but he could have gotten a maximum of a lifetime prison sentence, the AP reported.
“The punishment must have as its aim a general deterrent effect on the community as a whole, as well as a specific deterrent effect on the individual in question,” the three judges wrote in their opinion, the Hill reported.
Tong’s trial occurred without a jury under rules that the country’s common law system can be overruled in the interest of protecting state secrets under the national security law, the AP reported.
Tong’s sentencing “confirms fears that the national security law is not merely a tool to instill terror into government critics in Hong Kong; it is a weapon that will be used to incarcerate them,” Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra said in a statement.
She said the ruling is a “move that represents a hammer blow to freedom of speech” and that the national security law “lacks any exemption for legitimate expression or protest.”
“In one year, the National Security Law has put Hong Kong on a rapid path to becoming a police state and created a human rights emergency for the people living there,” Mishra said in a statement about the brief.
She outlined a “climate of fear” caused by the legislation that “threatens to make the city a human rights wasteland increasingly resembling mainland China.” Earlier in the week, she said the conviction felt “like the beginning of the end for freedom of expression in Hong Kong.”
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Kendall Tietz is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.