Tuesday, July 5

Hong Kong’s first benchless trial begins under national security law



The first jury trial for violating national security law began in Hong Kong on Wednesday, marking a turning point in the international financial center’s judicial system. At the beginning of the process, Tong Ying-kit, 24, who appears for terrorism, incitement to secession and dangerous conduct pleaded “not guilty.”

It was the first Hong Kong man to be indicted last summer according to this draconian law, which has become the first legal tool for the recovery of control of the territory by the Chinese communist power. Tong Ying-kit is accused of deliberately hitting a group of policemen with the motorcycle, three of whom were injured, on July 1, 2020, hours after the law came into force.

In the images he is seen committing the deeds with a flag on which is written “Free Hong Kong, the revolution of our time.” This slogan of the pro-democracy movement is now considered against the national security law, a crime that can be sentenced to life imprisonment. Tong Ying-kit appealed in two courts the decision of the Ministry of Justice to prosecute him without a jury. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

Until the entry into force of the national security law, the presence of a jury was mandatory to try crimes of this gravity. But this law provides that some criminal cases are tried by a panel of three magistrates.

This legislation was imposed by Beijing in response to the immense pro-democracy mobilization of 2019, when Hong Kong was the scene for several months of mass demonstrations against China’s interference in the semi-autonomous territory.

More than 60 people have been indicted for having violated this law, including numerous leading figures of the pro-democracy movement. Most are in provisional detention.

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