Hong Kong has faithfully abided by the legal certitudes dictated by China.
While this was only to be expected after Beijing’s takeover from Britain in 1997, Friday’s verdict against a prodemocracy protestor, who has been sentenced to nine years in prison, was direly unprecedented and arguably unwarranted considering the nature of the offence.
Tong Ying-kit (24) has been convicted for “inciting secession and terrorism” for allegedly driving his motor-cycle into a group of police officers at a rally on July 1 last year. The other charge was that he was flaunting a flag that carried the banned slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”.
Small wonder that both mainland China and its protectorate had their dander up.
The prosecution is the first under Hong Kong’s national security law, that was imposed by President Xi Jinping’s government after pro-democracy protests in 2019.
It is hard not to wonder whether the state has acted with far greater indignation than it is entitled to.
The court has pronounced its order as the Chinese Communist Party tightens its grip over the protectorate, where the establishment kowtows to every imprimatur from China. Tong’s sentence was longer than the three years requested by the prosecution.
At one stage, he even faced a “possible maximum of life in prison”.
Mercifully, he has been spared that comeuppance. The sentence has caused a flutter in the international roost. Amnesty International has been suitably scathing in its condemnation ~ “The sentence is a hammer blow to free speech and the law is a tool to instill terror among critics of the government”, which is helmed by the likes of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam. Amnesty is explicit on the point that “the law lacks any exemption for legitimate expression or protest”.
Furthermore, “the judgment at no point considered Tong’s rights to freedom of expression and protest”.
The United States of America has criticised the “unjust outcome” of the Tong trial. The condemnation has been advanced at a critical juncture, specifically in parallel to President Biden’s essay to mend fences with China.
America has hit the bull’s eye ~ “The security law has been used as a political weapon to silence dissenting voices”.
China is undermining the rights guaranteed by Hong Kong’s Basic Law and the 1984 Chinese-British Joint Declaration on the territory’s return. Inherent in the verdict is the absence of legal basics.
The court has not observed that the attack was deliberate. No one was injured and the “secession-related” offence deserves a relatively minor rating in the overall construct. It is a feeble charge to infer that the carrying of the flag was an act of incitement to secession.
Nor for that matter can the raising of a slogan be considered as an incitement to secession. The interpretation of the law has been contrived, to say the least, to suit the interests of the People’s Republic of China.