In a historic ruling, a Hong Kong court convicted a protester of terrorism under Hong Kong’s National Security Law, or NSL, for the first time on July 27, The New York Times reported.
Leon Tong Ying-kit was arrested on July 1, 2020, the first day the NSL was in effect. As Tong drove his motorcycle through the streets of Hong Kong, a flag fluttered above him with the anti-government slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times.” Tong then crashed into a group of Hong Kong riot police, injuring three.
A day after Tong’s arrest, the government banned the phrase.
Tong is the first person to be tried under the NSL. The court ruled his act qualified as inciting secession from China, and concluded Tong deliberately crashed into the police officers.
Convicted by a three-judge panel handpicked by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, Tong was denied bail and a trial by jury. He could face a life sentence in prison.
The three judges said: “We are … sure that the defendant fully understood the slogan to bear the meaning of Hong Kong independence and by displaying, in the manner he did, the flag bearing the slogan, the defendant intended to convey the secessionist meaning of the slogan as understood by him to others and he intended to incite others to commit acts separating the HKSAR (Hong Kong) from the PRC (People’s Republic of China).”
The NSL criminalizes behavior that endangers national security or is damaging to China. Tong’s conviction comes after some 60 arrests of numerous protesters and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, including longtime Acton friend, Jimmy Lai.
On Aug. 10, 2020, Jimmy Lai, media tycoon, journalist, and founder of Apple Daily newspaper, was arrested under the same law. He called his arrest, on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces by Hong Kong authorities, a “symbolic exercise.”
Lai, a strong Catholic dissident of communism, was the recipient of Acton’s Faith and Freedom Award in 2020. He has been a verbal proponent of democracy in Hong Kong since the middle of the 20th century.
A court ruled Lai serve 14 months in prison for participating in an unauthorized pro-democracy assembly in 2019.
“Without freedom you have nothing left” says Lai.
With this first NSL conviction comes a looming reality: It is necessary for Chinese citizens and those around the world should work to free the Chinese people from their communist government’s pursuit of absolute control and decimation of their citizens’ liberty.