Jul 30, 2021 - World

Hong Kong protester sentenced to 9 years in first national security conviction

Hong Kong defendant Tong Ying-Kit, 23, arrives at court after being accused of deliberately driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers last Wednesday
Hong Kong defendant Tong Ying-Kit arrives at court after being accused of deliberately driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers. Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

Pro-democracy protester Tong Ying-kit was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison on charges of terrorism and inciting secession brought under Hong Kong’s national security law, AP reports.

Why it matters: The 24-year-old Tong is the first person convicted under the sweeping law, which China imposed last year to help crack down on massive protests that erupted in mid-2019.

  • Tong was arrested and charged after driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers at a July 1, 2020, rally. He allegedly carried a flag that read the banned slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times."
  • The judges ruled that Tong sought to intimidate the government and public, saying that carrying the flag was an act of incitement to secession.
  • The prosecution requested that Tong's sentence, which carried a maximum of life in prison, be three years.

What they're saying: Human rights activists say the security law infringes on legitimate dissent.

  • Tong’s sentence is a "hammer blow to free speech" and shows the law is "a tool to instill terror" in government critics, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific regional director, Yamini Mishra, told AP.
  • The U.S. government criticized the "unjust outcome" of Tong’s trial and said the security law was used "as a political weapon to silence dissenting voices," per AP.
  • The U.S. called on Beijing to "stop targeting individuals exercising their rights and freedoms."
  • Chinese officials reject the criticism and say Beijing is restoring order, per AP.

Go deeper: Beijing's national security law leaves Hong Kong in an authoritarian home

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