A pro-democracy protester was sentenced Friday to nine years in prison in the closely watched first case under Hong Kong’s national security law as Beijing tightens control over the territory. Tong Ying-kit was convicted Tuesday of inciting secession and terrorism for driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers during a July 1, 2020, rally—hours after the law was introduced. He carried a flag bearing the banned slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” the AP reports. Under the security law, he was denied bail and a jury trial. The judges said the 24-year-old restaurant worker's previous good character and the fact that he was his family's main breadwinner were not mitigating factors, the Hong Kong Free Press.
Tong's trial focused mainly on whether the "Liberate Hong Kong" slogan, widely used before the law was introduced, was a call for secession from China. Defense lawyer Clive Grossman said Tong had tried to avoid the officer but was distracted when one threw a shield at him, the New York Times reports. "A person who sets out to commit the act of terrorism by driving into people does not put his foot on the brake," he said. The conviction "is a significant and ominous moment for human rights in Hong Kong" and "underlines the sobering fact that expressing certain political opinions in the city is now officially a crime," Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Regional Director Yamini Mishra in a statement after he was found guilty earlier this week, per the BBC.
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