After nearly a month, the trial of the first individual accused under Hong Kong’s broad national security law concluded on Tuesday, and now watchers will await the judgement in the landmark case to see how similar cases could be handled in the future.
The trial of the first person indicted under Hong Kong’s wide national security law finished on Tuesday after almost a month, and now observers will await the verdict in the landmark case to see how similar cases would be handled in the future.
He pled not guilty to accusations of encouraging secession, terrorism, and a reckless driving offence. The trial was held in the High Court without a jury, a break from Hong Kong’s common-law system. On July 27, a verdict would be rendered, with life imprisonment as the maximum sentence if proven guilty.
National security trials may be tried without a jury if state secrets must be preserved, foreign forces are engaged, or jurors’ personal safety is at stake. Judges are hand-picked by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to preside over trials.
Beijing enforced the national security law on semi-autonomous Hong Kong last year, following months of anti-government protests by individuals concerned about China’s growing control over the former British colony. It forbids secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign participation in city affairs.
Authorities have also prohibited the protest cry “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times,” citing separatist overtones. International condemnation has been levelled at the legislation, as well as the crackdown on dissent that has followed it. Critics argue that the national security law further restricts the freedom Hong Kong was promised when it was turned over to the Chinese administration from Britain in 1997.
More than a hundred individuals have been detained as a result of the security laws. Tong’s case is being extensively scrutinised for hints about how Hong Kong authorities may treat other national security issues.