Tong Ying-kit, the Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrator who was convicted earlier this week for riding his motorbike into a crowd of Hong Kong police while carrying the Hong Kong liberation flag, has just been sentenced to nine years in prison, the first
Tong was arrested in July 2020, and he is the first of the more than 100 people arrested for their involvement in the demonstrations (which, at their peak, brought 2.2MM Hong Kongers out into the streets). According to the BBC, the hefty sentence "set the tone for how future cases might be interpreted," according to BBC.
The arrests began after Beijing imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong, using a loophole in the Basic Law, the quasi-constitution that governs (or rather, once governed) the former British colony.
Others who are awaiting their own trials include Joshua Wong, the former student activist who achieved international reknown for his leadership of an earlier wave of pro-democracy protests in 2014, and publisher Jimmy Lai.
Tong was officially convicted on seccession charges because of the slogan on his liberate Hong Kong flag, and terrorism charges due to his "deliberate challenge against the police". Much of Tong's 15-day trial focused on the meaning of "Liberate Hong Kong revolution in our times," the slogan written on Tong's flag. The prosecution argued that the slogan calls for Hong Kong's independence, which is explicitly illegal under the new national security law.
In the end, the judge agreed tht the phrase might "insice others to commmit seccession" and ruled that Tong was guilty.
Human rights lawyers immediately denounced the sentence as inhumane and "unreasonably long".
"The casualty here is freedom of expression," said human rights lawyer ark Daly to the BBC.
However, one Hong Kong lawyer explained that the sentence is well within the guidelines of the new national security law, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Whether any of the remaining activists will receive even harsher sentences of course remains to be seen. But this is hardly an encouraging sign. The decision even reportedly added to the headwings weighing on US stock futures Friday morning, as President Biden has sanctioned Chinese officials over Hong Kong. It's certainly possible that the UK or US might at least directly denounce the sentence, further straining relations with Beijing.