Protest slogan in focus at first security trial

A national security suspect flew a flag bearing a protest slogan in order to incite others to commit acts of secession, prosecutors told the High Court on Wednesday, at the start of the city’s first national security trial.

The defendant, Tong Ying-kit, allegedly drove his motorcycle into police officers in Wan Chai on July 1 last year – the day after the national security law came into effect – while flying the flag that said “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times” in Chinese.

The 24-year-old Tong has pleaded not guilty to inciting secession and terrorism, as well as an alternative charge of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.

The slogan printed on the flag was a focus of prosecutors’ opening statement at the start of the trial.

Citing the opinion of history professor Lau Chi-pang from the Lingnan University, prosecutors said the slogan printed on the flag “connotes Hong Kong independence”.

The acting deputy director of public prosecutions, Anthony Chau, said “Liberate Hong Kong” has the meaning of recovering the SAR from enemy hands. By extension, he said, the words mean that the SAR is not a part of the People’s Republic of China and view China as an enemy.

“Revolution of Our Times”, meanwhile, has the meaning of rejecting the governance of China and the SAR, Chau explained. He said it also has the meaning of attempting to replace the current regime or social system.

He also told the judges to consider the defendant’s conduct and state of mind within the social context at the time.

By flying the flag while driving his motorbike from the Eastern Harbour Crossing to Wan Chai, Chau said, the defendant had wanted to be seen in order to incite others to commit acts of secession.

On the terrorism charge, prosecutors said Tong had committed serious violence or seriously jeopardised public safety and security by repeatedly ignoring police and eventually crashing his motorbike.

After making their opening statement, the prosecution showed a number of video clips, sourced from CCTV, police and open-sourced footage, where a man was seen driving a motorbike near the Eastern Harbour Crossing and in Wan Chai. They said the man in the footage was Tong.

But defence counsel Clive Grossman questioned whether some of these videos shown were of any relevance.

Sitting in the dock, the bespectacled Tong, wearing a blue jacket and a black shirt, appeared calm.

Simultaneous interpretation was provided to him with the hearing being conducted in English.

A police superintendent tasked with maintaining public order in Wan Chai on that day was summoned to the court as the prosecution’s first witness.

Tam Wan-yee said there had been protesters in the area when they arrived after 3pm, adding that she also saw rubbish bins, bricks and fires on Hennessy Road. She will continue to testify on Thursday.

In all, 22 witnesses are expected to testify in the 15-day long trial.

Before the hearing began, justice Esther Toh said it had come to the court’s attention that someone had taken photographs in the courtroom prior to the hearing, which is prohibited under the law, and the judiciary had reported the case to the police.