San Francisco Chronicle

Protester given 9year jail term in security case

- By Katie Tam and Janice Lo Katie Tam and Janice Lo are Associated Press writers.

HONG KONG — A prodemocra­cy protester was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison in the closely watched first prosecutio­n under Hong Kong’s national security law as the ruling Communist Party tightens control over the territory.

Tong Yingkit, 24, was convicted of inciting secession and terrorism for driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers at a July 1, 2020, rally. He carried a flag bearing the banned slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”

President Xi Jinping’s government imposed the law on the former British colony last year following protests that erupted in mid2019. Beijing has rolled back the territory’s Westernsty­le civil liberties and tried to crush a prodemocra­cy movement by jailing activists. The public’s role in picking Hong Kong’s legislator­s has been reduced.

Critics accuse Beijing of violating the autonomy promised when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 and wrecking its status as a global business center. Human rights activists say the security law is being abused to attack legitimate dissent.

Tong’s sentence was longer than the three years requested by the prosecutio­n. He faced a possible maximum of life in prison.

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 AsiaPacifi­c regional director, Yamini Mishra, said in a statement.

The law “lacks any exemption for legitimate expression or protest,” Mishra said. “The judgment at no point considered Tong’s rights to freedom of expression and protest.”

The U.S. government, in a statement, criticized the “unjust outcome” of Tong’s trial and said the security law was used “as a political weapon to silence dissenting voices.” It said China is underminin­g rights guaranteed by Hong Kong’s miniconsti­tution, the Basic Law, and by the 1984 ChineseBri­tish Joint Declaratio­n on the territory’s return.

It called on Beijing to “stop targeting individual­s exercising their rights and freedoms.”

Chinese officials reject the criticism and say Beijing is restoring order and institutin­g security protection­s like those of other countries. More than 100 people have been arrested under the security law.

Defense lawyers said Tong’s penalty should be light because the court hadn’t found the attack was deliberate, no one was injured and the secessionr­elated offense qualified as minor under the law.

Tong nodded but said nothing after Judge Esther Toh announced the sentence for a threejudge panel in the Hong Kong High Court.

As Tong was led out of the courtroom, spectators yelled, “We will wait for you!”

 ?? Vincent Yu / Associated Press ?? Police officers stand guard as a prison truck carrying Tong Yingkit leaves court after his sentencing for violating Hong Kong’s national security law. The U.S. denounced the trial.
Vincent Yu / Associated Press Police officers stand guard as a prison truck carrying Tong Yingkit leaves court after his sentencing for violating Hong Kong’s national security law. The U.S. denounced the trial.

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