Following a 15-day trial without a jury, three handpicked national security judges convicted Tong of terrorism and inciting secession for driving a motorbike into a group of police officers on July 1, 2020, while carrying a protest flag that read “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times”.
The court said it considers that Tong’s punishment should sufficiently reflect his culpability and society’s abhorrence of his actions, while at the same time it should achieve the deterrent effect required.
His secession offence was of a “serious nature” warranting a prison term of between five and 10 years, the judges said.
But they added: “We note that the offence committed by the defendant, albeit of a serious nature, is not the worst case of its kind and that the defendant committed the offence alone, and that the slogan was a general call for the separation of the HKSAR from the PRC, without an elaborate plan being conveyed to the public at the same time.”
On the terrorism offence, they said Tong’s acts were pre-planned and his driving meant that his motorcycle was a lethal weapon.
They also said the injuries the police officers suffered when Tong crashed into them were “not minor at all”, but they were also “not serious”.
Tong, 24, is the first person to be found guilty under the national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong 13 months ago – just hours before he carried out his offences.
His acts on the day in question caused “grave harm to society” and were aimed at “intimidating the public in order to pursue a political agenda,” the court ruled on Tuesday.
His crash with the police will have certainly instilled “a sense of fear amongst the law-abiding members of the public, in particular, apprehension of a breakdown of a safe and peaceful society into a lawless one”, the judgement said.
Tong’s defence lawyer said during a subsequent mitigation hearing that his client had only been “poking fun” at the police and didn’t mean to hurt anyone.
On Thursday, prosecutors urged justices Esther Toh, Anthea Pang and Wilson Chan to refer to mainland law when sentencing Tong. But the trio rejected the request.
They sentenced Tong to six-and-a-half years behind bars for the secession offence and eight years for the terrorism charge. Two-and-a-half years of the prison term for terrorism is to be served consecutively to the sentence for inciting secession.
Tong was also disqualified from driving for 10 years.
His legal team told the media they plan to appeal against the conviction and sentence.
Legal experts say the court’s decision that the liberate slogan is capable of carrying a secessionist meaning – and had incited others to commit secession in this particular case – will have a binding effect on future court cases, and people should be wary of the legal risks that may come with using the slogan.
Last updated: 2021-07-30 HKT 15:50