Hong Kong Medic First to be Charged with Inciting Secession, Terrorism

Barrister Laurence Lau, representing Tong Ying-kit (not pictured) who is accused of deliberately driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers, speaks to the media outside court in Kowloon, Hong Kong.

A Hong Kong medic has become the first person to be charged under a sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on the territory earlier this week.

The defendant, 23-year-old Tong Ying-kit, has been charged by police with inciting others “with a view to committing secession or undermining national unification” as well as “terrorist activities”, according to local broadcaster RTHK.

Videos posted online show Tong riding a motorcycle trailing a flag that reads “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times!”

Tong is accused of driving into the police officers, leaving himself and three officers injured.

The case was heard at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Friday afternoon.

The UN Human Rights Office in Geneva expressed concern over the vagueness of the new security law and the speed at which it is being implemented.

“We are alarmed that arrests are already being made under the law with immediate effect, when there is not full information and understanding of the scope of the offences,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said.

A preliminary analysis of the law showed that offences are not clearly defined, creating the risk that it could be applied in a discriminatory or arbitrary manner, he said.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the latest of Five Eyes leaders to join in condemnation China’s intervention in the territory, by announcing he was suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

Trudeau said Canada would continue to stand up for Hong Kong, which is home to 300,000 Canadians. It would also not permit the export of sensitive military items to Hong Kong, he told reporters on Friday.

“We are also looking at additional measures, including around immigration,” he said without giving details.

Under the law that came into force this week, offenders could be sentenced to life in prison or extradited to stand trial in mainland China for secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

Critics say the law will be weaponised by Beijing to quash dissent in the financial hub, which has been roiled by protests for the past year.

Chinese state media announced on Friday that two hardline Beijing officials were named by the central government to “advise” and “supervise” a new national security policy committee headed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

The territory government said the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times,” was a breach of the new legislation as it indicates support for separating Hong Kong from mainland China.

The territory’s leadership said the slogan refers to altering the legal status of the Hong Kong special administrative region, or “subverting the state power”.

The slogan has been a mainstay at anti-government protests over the last year. Black flags, T-shirts, and stickers displaying the words in white in English and Cantonese have proliferated, as have flags advocating Hong Kong independence.

On Wednesday, more than 300 people were arrested in protests sparked by the law’s passing. Ten of the arrests were under the new law.

A number of pro-democracy and pro-independence groups in Hong Kong swiftly disbanded after the law came into effect.

Prominent activist Nathan Law, of now-disbanded pro-democracy group Demosisto, announced that he had left his native city in a bid to avoid persecution under the law. Law said on Twitter that he had chosen to continue his activism abroad over being kept silent or facing persecution at home.

“No Hong Konger is under the illusion that Beijing has any intention to respect our basic rights and honour its promises to us,” Law wrote. “Mass arrests have already begun on the first day of the National Security Law’s implementation.”

He has consistently lobbied the international community to take action against Beijing’s increasing authority in Hong Kong, a former British colony that was promised autonomy from the Mainland until 2047.