Hong Kong awaits the verdict of the first national security trial | China News

China Hong Kong – On July 1, 2020, Tong Yingjie drove a motorcycle past cheering crowds and angry police. It was not a problem, nor was his bicycle swayed, crashed, and injured three policemen. During the 15-day trial, Tong was tried on charges of inciting separatism and terrorism-which is the first charge under the Territory’s National Security Law (NSL)-most of the time when a flag was posted on Tong’s bicycle The meaning of the protest slogan was spoken by hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people in 2019: “Recover Hong Kong, Revolution of the Times”.

To the government responsible for enforcing the extensive national security laws that Beijing implemented in the hours before the incident, Tong is a “terrorist” who ignored the stop order and incited the masses to resist China, severely hurting the police. Semi-autonomous territory.

In the view of defense lawyers, Tong is a young man. Before a police officer let him lose control and crashed a car, he approved a new law without their consent, which made him angry. All he did was display one of the most popular slogans of the anti-government protests that rocked the territory in 2019.

Depends on the interpretation chosen by the three judges-the case is Decided by the judge, not the jury Just like the custom in criminal proceedings-a 24-year-old child may be sentenced to 10 years in jail for life. They are expected to deliver a verdict on July 27, and the decision will answer another important question in Hong Kong today: Is it a crime to shout or show protest slogans?

Legal scholars and activists worry that guilty verdicts will lead to more convictions of government opponents.

Michael Davis, a human rights law professor who has been teaching in Hong Kong for many years, said that the trial showed that the government was “equally keen to detect violations of the NSL, leading to large-scale attacks on freedom of speech.” “From observation, this seems to reflect the enthusiasm to please Beijing.”

Tong Yingjie is the first person to be charged under the National Security Law. If convicted, he will face at least 10 years in prison. [File: Vincent Yu/AP Photo]

In order to infer the true meaning of the slogan, the young activist jailed for using it at the 2016 election rally has never made it clear. The prosecution and defense provided witnesses, videos and texts. They turned to academic discussions of various disciplines and theories. Are the Chinese characters like the revolution referred to in the ancient books of the Yuan Dynasty? Do they represent violence through elections, as a historian said in his explanation of Malcolm X? Is it possible to get the meaning of shouting crowds or small focus groups that provide theory from the use of slogans? Can it be predicted by coding data or quantitative correlation? Perhaps the truth lies in revolutionary theory, research on election slogans, crowd reactions, the complexity of English translation, semantics, and theories of meaning.

Anthony Chau, Acting Deputy Director of the Public Prosecutors Office, said that Tong “must be deliberately letting others should or will commit the crime of secession.” “Someone yells, cheers, applauds… It doesn’t matter that the incitement has no effect on other people.”

“All over the world, people have been demonstrating and holding signs,” Tong’s lawyer Clive Grossman said. “A simple slogan may mean different things to different people.”

Seek clarity

The legal scholars under the leadership of President Xi Jinping have planned for many years, and have been National Security Law It takes effect a few hours before the child rides.

The direct goal of the law is to quell the protests in 2019, which sometimes turn into Violent confrontation And a siege that lasted for several days. The law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign entities. More than 100 people were arrested, more than 60 people charged, From the effective date.

From the very beginning, Western and even local legal scholars criticized NSL for being too broad and conflicting with Hong Kong’s common law tradition. There, due process requires the government to clearly define illegal behavior and prove that someone intended to convict that person.

This is not the case in the legal system in Mainland China, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party. Article 20 of the National Security Law stipulates that it is illegal to separate Hong Kong from China or hand over Hong Kong to a foreign country. Those who organize, plan, implement, or participate in such acts are guilty. It did not provide more details and left a lot of explanations, which is where the judges come in.

During the 15-day trial, Tong’s thoughts were not made public; he did not express his stance. He pleaded not guilty at the beginning of the trial.

The prosecution’s main witness and professor of local and ancient history, Liu Zhipeng, testified that the word “gwong fuk” in the interpretation of the British writer means “liberation”, which means to regain territory from foreign enemies. “It means restoring regimes or national territories that have fallen into enemies or foreign ethnic groups.

“Hong Kong in this situation is equivalent to being occupied by the enemy or foreign ethnic groups,” Liu testified through an English translator. “The Hong Kong government is a government controlled by the enemy. The second line of this sentence refers to the revolution and the overthrow of the current regime.”

I shouted the same slogan for the first time five years ago Edward Leung, A student and politician, interrupted this with slogans at a 2016 legislative election rally. During the trial, a video of the event was played in front of a cheering crowd. Liang was sentenced to six years in prison for the riots that month.

Under cross-examination, Liu insisted that no one can know Liang’s thoughts, but this sentence has the same historical significance for 1,000 years-rise up against the government. “He made this vote equivalent to [a] Weapons,” Liu testified. “His ultimate goal is to change the political system…In a way, he is using votes [for] The purpose of overthrowing the regime. “

The slogan-the English translation of “Recover Hong Kong, Revolution of the Times” was uttered by a student and politician in 2016.He is currently in jail [File: Alex Hofford/EPA]

The two defense witnesses injected more uncertainty when debating the meaning.

Eliza Lee, a political scientist at the University of Hong Kong, pointed out that protesters began using the term “gwong fuk” in 2012, when they rallied against buyers of goods from mainland China, who flocked to border towns to buy milk powder and other items.

What Leung wanted to express, asked junior defense lawyer Lawrence Lau. In another case, Liu himself was a national security defendant. He and 46 other people were accused of conspiring to subvert the government by participating in the primary elections of citizens.

She said Liang Zhenying “transmitted a political message, that is, to restore the lost old order, unite people who love freedom and bring about major changes.” She admitted that Liang Zhenying had spoken in support of Hong Kong independence, but emphasized that people chanting slogans at the rally does not mean that they must want the same political division.

She said that similarly, it is unclear whether the crowd in 2019 is agitating for independence when chanting slogans.

‘Different things for different people’

Lee and Francis Lee, another professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, used news reports, reviews, and focus group interviews to understand the meaning of the crowd.

When people chanted these words for the first time in 2019, on July 21st, a group of people had just painted black paint on the national emblem of the Chinese government office.

“People at the time felt they needed something new to express their anger,” Eliza Lee testified. “It means different things to different people.” As the protests dragged on, more and more people wrote articles about independence on Internet forums.

Historian Liu said that Liang clearly wanted people to overthrow the government because he mentioned Malcolm X and “votes are bullets.” Li, who received postgraduate education at Syracuse University in New York State, said that this is a wrong translation and understanding. This black activist in the 1960s tried to urge black Americans to vote. “It’s a metaphor,” Li said.

The prosecutor obviously wanted to use his slogan to prove that Liang Zhenying was a separatist, and therefore Tang was also a separatist. Is Malcolm X a separatist? Li tried to suppress her anger.

“How much do we need to venture into the complex history of apartheid in the United States?” she told the prosecutor. “In order to be fair to what black nationalism is, and what it means to be segregated by African Americans in apartheid at the time, we must study in depth.” A judge closed a series of questions.

Nevertheless, a series of academic issues still exist: the translation of ancient revolutionary vocabulary, the meaning of waving the colonial flag, and whether to “recover” or “restore” overcrowded areas in 2016 has the same meaning as when the protesters assembled in 2019.

“I have to say,” she said in a long afternoon in court, “many protesters have no coherence. They are also not sure what they want. They are dissatisfied, and… I don’t know what they really want to say. .”

The National Security Law was implemented after a large-scale rally in Hong Kong turned into a sometimes violent anti-government protest in 2019 [File: Jerome Favre/EPA]

Prosecutor Zhou continued to push forward, asking her to admit that the protests included anti-China elements, anti-mainland people, and people seeking to return to colonial rule and Hong Kong independence.

Use “screenshot…you capture a moment,” Li responded. “I don’t know whether someone holding that banner can represent all those who participated in the protest.”

By showing her a picture or video, “I have to be a mind reader to understand someone’s thoughts,” she said.

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