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Hong Kong's first convict under national security law gets nine years in prison

Hong Kong’s first convict under national security law gets nine years in prison

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Hong Kong (AFP)

A Hong Kong waiter was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison after he became the first person to be convicted under Beijing’s national security law imposed on the city to stamp out dissent.

Tong Ying-Kate, 24, was charged Tuesday with terrorism charges for hitting three police officers with a motorbike, and separating for raising the protest movement flag during a rally on July 1 last year, the day after the national security law was imposed.

The trial was a turning point that was a new indication of the changing legal scene in the city and an affirmation that some banned political slogans now lead to long prison sentences.

“Free Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time” was written on Tung’s flag, a ubiquitous anthem during the massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests that rocked the city two years ago.

Three judges on Tuesday declared Tong guilty, finding that the flag bearing the slogan “is capable of inciting other persons to commit an act of secession” and is therefore illegal.

He was convicted of eight years in prison for “terrorism” and six and a half years in prison for “inciting separatism.” Given the possibility of the two sentences being partially commuted, the judges eventually decided to sentence Tong to nine years in prison.

The two-week trial took place, without a jury, in what is seen as a major departure from Hong Kong’s common law tradition. The three judges were carefully selected by Hong Kong’s executive branch to decide cases relating to national security.

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More than 60 people have been charged under the National Security Law, which has been imposed as a primary means of China’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.

Among the people prosecuted under this provision is media mogul Jimmy Lai, the former head of the now-defunct pro-democracy Apple Daily.

Most of these persons have been denied bail requests and are awaiting trial behind bars.