August 3, 2021

In Hong Kong, first trial under new national security law

Everyone in Hong Kong remembers the images that circulated widely on the 1is July 2020 of a young man on a motorbike, rushing towards a group of police officers, in the district of Wan Chai, in the heart of the island, with, floating behind him, a large black banner proclaiming in traditional Chinese characters, the one of the slogans of the summer 2019 revolt: “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time”. On that day, the Special Administrative Region was in shock at the entry into force of the new law for the preservation of national security (LSN), imposed by Beijing and which the chief executive, Carrie Lam, had had. promulgated the day before, at 11 p.m.

The gesture of defiance of Tong Ying-kit, then 23 years old, had marked the spirits. In the process, he was the first Hong Kong citizen to be arrested and charged on account of the LSN. He is now accused of “terrorism” and “inciting secession”, two of the four crimes defined by the LSN (also punishing “sedition” and “collusion” with foreign forces) which provides for penalties ranging from up to life imprisonment, even extradition and trial in China. He is also charged with causing serious injury by dangerous driving. He has indicated his intention to plead not guilty.

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This highly symbolic trial opened on Wednesday, June 23 in a heavy and tense political context, with the approach of the 1is July which marks not only the first anniversary of the law, but also the 24e anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China (1997) and the 100e anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Hong Kong’s most popular opposition newspaper, Apple Daily, is cornered by the authorities who have blocked its funds, and its closure is imminent. While the director of the title and its editor-in-chief were indicted on account of the LSN and remanded in custody on Saturday, one of the title’s oldest columnists, who signed under the pen name Li Ping, was also arrested. at home, Wednesday morning. Police said more arrests would follow.

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Tong Ying-kit has been held in preventive detention for almost a year despite his numerous requests for bail, all of which were refused, as well as a habeas corpus order issued by his lawyers. Justice Minister Teresa Cheng further told Tong Ying-kit’s lawyers in February that their client would be tried without a jury, citing risks to the safety of jurors given the sensitivity of the case. A trial without a jury at first instance was seen as a departure from Hong Kong’s legal process, but its lawyers have lost several appeals against the decision. It is therefore three judges chosen and appointed by Carrie Lam to handle cases under the LSN who will deliver the verdict at the end of this trial, which should last at least three weeks. Twenty-two witnesses are expected to be heard.

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