A Hong Kong man has been sentenced to nine years in prison after he rode a motorbike into police officers while flying a flag with a protest slogan.
Tong Ying-kit, whose flag bore the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”, was earlier found guilty of inciting secession and terrorism.
He was the first person to be charged under Hong Kong’s controversial national security law. The ruling has set the tone for how future cases might be interpreted.
More than 100 people have been arrested since the law came into force in 2020. Critics say it reduces Hong Kong’s autonomy and makes it easier to punish activists.
But Beijing insists that the law, which came after a series of mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, is needed to bring stability to the city.
Part of Tong’s 15-day trial focused on the meaning of the phrase emblazoned on his flag, which was a popular slogan during the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.
The prosecution argued that the phrase literally called for Hong Kong’s independence from the mainland, while the defence said its meaning was more ambiguous.
In the end the judge ruled that the phrase was capable of inciting others to commit “secession” and found him guilty.
Tong had earlier on Wednesday been sentenced at a trial without jury – a departure from Hong Kong’s common law tradition.
The defence team had argued for a jury but Hong Kong’s justice secretary argued that the jurors’ safety would be put at risk given the city’s sensitive political climate.