First person charged under Hong Kong national security law found guilty on two charges

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(CNN)— The first person to be tried under Hong Kong's sweeping national security law faces life in prison after being found guilty on Tuesday of inciting secession and terrorism in a landmark court ruling that is likely to have profound implications for the city's legal system.

Tong Ying-kit, 24, was found guilty of terrorism for crashing his motorcycle into a group of police officers, injuring three, and incitement to commit secession, for carrying a large black banner emblazoned with the popular anti-government protest slogan, "Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times."

A three judge panel selected by Hong Kong's leader ruled that Tong's actions constituted a "deliberate challenge against the police" and intended to cause "great harm to society."

As the first trial under the new legislation, which was promulgated by Beijing on June 30 last year, Tong's case is widely seen as a litmus test for how the law will be implemented and interpreted in court in the coming months.

Much of the case had hinged on the judge's interpretation of the protest flag Tong was carrying. On Tuesday, the judges made clear the slogan, a common rallying call during the city's 2019 anti-government, pro democracy demonstrations, was "intended to communicate secessionist meaning" and was "capable of inciting others to commit secession."

Tong had pleaded not guilty to all charges, which stemmed from an incident on July 1, 2020, just one day after the the law was enacted. Tong's sentencing will be announced at a later date.

The wide ranging national security law criminalizes acts of secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, and carries with it a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Tong was denied bail and his trial held without a jury, in a significant departure from the common law traditions that Hong Kong's legal system had previously followed.

As a former British colony, Hong Kong's legal system is heavily influenced by British common law, and has relied on trial by jury throughout its history. A 2003 government report noted that trial by jury was one of the "key features of the Hong Kong legal system."

But under the national security law, Beijing can take over national security cases in special circumstances -- and if it involves "state secrets or public order," it can mandate a closed-door trial with no jury.

As of Monday, police have arrested 138 people and charged 76 under the law. Those arrested include students, activists, former lawmakers, journalists, and lawyers. Three companies have also been charged.

This is a breaking story, more to follow.

This story was first published on CNN.com, "First person charged under Hong Kong national security law found guilty on two charges."