Security suspect flew secessionist flag, court told

Prosecutors of the city’s first national security suspect have told the High Court that a protest flag the man flew displayed a slogan that “connotes Hong Kong independence”.

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

At the beginning of Hong Kong’s first national security trial, the 24-year-old Tong pleaded not guilty to inciting secession, terrorism and an alternative charge of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.

The trial is being heard before three judges designated to handle national security cases, after the secretary for justice ordered it go ahead without a jury – citing concerns over the personal safety of jurors and their family members.

Prosecutors opened their case against Tong by citing expert opinion in alleging that the slogan printed on the flag connotes “Hong Kong independence”, or separating Hong Kong from the People’s Republic of China, altering the legal status of the SAR and subverting state power in the city’s political language.

They said that Tong, by flying the flag while driving from Eastern Harbour Crossing to Wan Chai, had intended to encourage others to commit acts of secession.

Tong’s alleged act was meant to be seen, they said. Tong knew the police wanted to stop him, they added, but he failed to stop or leave and instead continued what he was doing in the area.

The prosecution also said they found in Tong’s mobile phone a file stored on Google Drive named “Liberate Hong Kong”. They said he had messaged a person on July 1 last year saying he intended to go to a cafe described as a “safe spot” in Causeway Bay while acknowledging there were roadblocks at cross harbour tunnels.

Prosecutors told the judges to consider the conduct and state of mind of the defendant in the social context at the time.

They said the incident took place the day immediately following the introduction of the national security law, adding that theme of the anti-extradition protests since June 2019 was no longer a live issue.

The acting deputy director of public prosecutions, Anthony Chau, said Tong committed the incitement act at a place where protests were widespread in previous months.

And, he said, for a period prior to the incident there had been heated debate in the community as to the meaning of the words.

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.

The trial is scheduled to last 15 days, with 22 witnesses expected to testify.

The hearing continues.