Trial of first person charged under HK security law ends a year after arrest

Police officers escort a prison van which is carrying Tong Ying-kit, the first person charged under the new national security law, as he leaves West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts, in Hong Kong

The trial of the first person charged under the national security law in Hong Kong is set to end on Tuesday, more than a year after he was accused of driving his motorcycle into officers at a rally while carrying a flag with a protest slogan.

Here is a timeline of events in this landmark case.

July 1, 2020 – Tong Ying-kit, now 24, is arrested shortly after the enactment of the national security law at a protest against the legislation, which punishes what China deems as subversion, secessionism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

Police say he drove his motorcycle into several officers, injuring some of them, while carrying a flag reading “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times.”

July 3, 2020 – The Hong Kong government says the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” made popular during mass 2019 pro-democracy protests, connotes separatism or subversion.

Hours after the government’s statement, Tong is charged with terrorism and inciting separatism under the national security law.

July 6, 2020 – A Hong Kong court denies bail to Tong, citing Article 42 of the national security law, which states that “No bail shall be granted to a criminal suspect or defendant unless the judge has sufficient grounds for believing that the criminal suspect or defendant will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.”

Aug. 21, 2020 – Two judges of Hong Kong’s High Court reject Tong’s writ for habeas corpus, which determines whether detention is lawful, saying he should have instead sought a review of an order to deny him bail.

Aug. 25, 2020 – Hong Kong’s High Court rejects Tong’s new bail application.

Feb 5, 2021 – Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng informs Tong that his trial will be heard by three judges appointed for national security cases, instead of a jury, citing “the personal safety of jurors and their family members”.

Tong later files for a judicial review of the decision.

May 20, 2021 – Court of First Instance in the High Court rejects the judicial review application, saying in a written judgement “there is nothing inherently unreasonable in directing a trial by a panel of three judges sitting without a jury, when there is a perceived risk of the personal safety of jurors and their family members or that due administration of justice might be impaired”.

June 22, 2021 – Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal upholds decision to deny trial by jury.

June 23, 2021 – Tong’s trial begins and he pleads not guilty to all charges, including a new, alternative charge of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm, which can lead to up to seven years in prison.

July 20, 2021 – Tong’s trial is expected to end after weeks of debate focusing mainly on the meaning of the slogan on his flag.

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