The first person charged under the controversial security law imposed on Hong Kong by China earlier this year entered a not guilty plea Monday.
Tong Ying-kit, 24, has been charged with inciting secession and engaging in terrorist activities for his actions during protests on July 1. According to reports, he drove a motorcycle into a group of police officers, carrying a banner reading “Liberate Hong Kong; Revolution of Our Times.” The slogan has appeared across Hong Kong on everything from signs to Post-it notes. He has been in custody since July 6. In addition to Tong, 23 other people have been arrested in relation to the protests. Most of them have been accused of chanting slogans and waving banners or publishing material online that the government deems secessionist.
While Tong’s case was originally put before the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court, it has been transferred to the High Court for trial. As the first person charged under the security law, Tong’s case will be closely watched. Many will be looking for indications of how the government intends to handle the law. Undoubtedly, lawyers for the other 23 people will be looking for clues as to how to best adapt their strategies before going to trial.
The terms of Hong Kong’s handover include the “one country, two systems” arrangement, which has been credited with establishing Hong Kong as one of the world’s primary financial capitals. While authorities in Beijing insist that the security law does not undermine the rights that underpin that status, other countries are not convinced. The EU has added Hong Kong to its agenda. The UN’s human rights office has voiced its concerns. The US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany, France and the UK have halted extraditions to Hong Kong.