Trial of first person charged under Hong Kong security law

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FILE PHOTO: Supporters bid farewell to a prison van transporting Tong Ying-kit
FILE PHOTO: Supporters bid farewell to a prison van transporting Tong Ying-kit, a Hong Kong resident charged under the city’s new national security law, who has been denied bail again in Hong Kong, China, August 25, 2020. REUTERS/Lam Yik

July 27, 2021

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Three Hong Kong judges are expected to deliver their verdict on Tuesday in the trial of the first person charged under the national security law.

Here is a timeline of events in this landmark case.

July 1, 2020 – Tong Ying-kit, now 24, is arrested shortly after the enactment of the national security law, which punishes what China deems as subversion, secessionism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Police say Tong, a former waiter, drove his motorcycle into three riot police, injuring them, while carrying a black flag reading “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times,” in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong island. Thousands of protesters had gathered in several districts on Hong Kong island that day to oppose the national security law, leading to several hundred arrests.

July 2, 2020 – The Hong Kong government says the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” made popular during mass 2019 pro-democracy protests, connotes “Hong Kong independence” or “subverting state power”.

July 3, 2020 – Hours after the government’s statement, Tong is charged with terrorism and inciting separatism under the national security law.

July 6, 2020 – A Hong Kong court denies bail to Tong, citing Article 42 of the national security law, which states that “No bail shall be granted to a criminal suspect or defendant unless the judge has sufficient grounds for believing that the criminal suspect or defendant will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.”

Aug. 21, 2020 – Two judges, Anderson Chow and Alex Lee, of Hong Kong’s High Court reject Tong’s writ for habeas corpus, which determines whether detention is lawful, saying he should have instead sought a review of an order to deny him bail.

Aug. 25, 2020 – Hong Kong High Court judge Alex Lee rejects Tong’s new bail application.

Feb 5, 2021 – Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng issues a certificate, or order, that Tong’s trial will be heard by three judges appointed for national security cases, instead of a jury, citing “the personal safety of jurors and their family members”. She adds that there is a “real risk” that justice might be impaired if a jury trial were allowed.

Tong later files for a judicial review of the decision.

May 20, 2021 – Judge Alex Lee, with the Court of First Instance of the High Court, rejects the judicial review application, saying in a written judgement “there is nothing inherently unreasonable in directing a trial by a panel of three judges sitting without a jury, when there is a perceived risk of the personal safety of jurors and their family members or that due administration of justice might be impaired”.

June 22, 2021 – Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal judges Jeremy Poon, Wally Yeung and Johnson Lam uphold decision to deny trial by jury.

June 23, 2021 – Tong’s trial begins and he pleads not guilty to all charges, including a new, alternative charge of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm, which can lead to up to seven years in prison.

July 20, 2021 – Tong’s trial ends after weeks of debate focusing mainly on the meaning of the slogan on his flag.

July 27, 2021 – Judges Esther Toh, Anthea Pang and Wilson Chan are expected to give their verdict.

(Compiled by Marius Zaharia. Editing by Gerry Doyle)