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Hong Kong’s first trial under national security hears closing arguments

HONG KONG: The trial of the first person charged under Hong Kong’s national security law will conclude on Tuesday: the accused will be denied bail and a jury in a landmark case that critics say is a departure from common law.

Former waiter Tong Ying-kit, 24, pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, incitement to secession, and alternative charges of dangerous driving and causing grievous bodily harm on July 1 last year, shortly after the law went into effect.

Hong Kong customary law has traditionally allowed defendants to seek release if prosecutors cannot provide a legal basis for their detention.

Under the new law, which some Western governments and rights groups say is being used to suppress dissent in the global financial center, the onus is on the defendant to prove he will not break the law if released on bail.

The governments of Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly stated that the new law is necessary to bring stability to the former British colony following anti-government protests in 2019.

Tong’s trial is presided over by three judges selected by Hong Kong pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam (photo) to hear national security cases: Esther To, Anthea Pang and Wilson Chan. No jury.

The Hong Kong judiciary describes the jury as one of the most important features of the city’s legal system, a common law tradition designed to offer defendants additional protection against abuse of power.

Article 46 of the security law drafted by Beijing, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party and the conviction rate is close to 100%, sets out three cases of jury cancellation: protection of state secrets, cases involving foreign forces, and protection of juries. safety.

Tong, the first of more than 120 people arrested under security law, is accused of running his motorcycle over officers at a rally while carrying a protest flag “Free Hong Kong, the revolution of our time.”

Interpreting a protest slogan is a key element of the legal process. The government said it was proposing a call for independence, which would violate the security law. Defense lawyers argue that this is a phrase that has different meanings, including the desire for freedom and democracy.

The fate of Tonga could signal how the courts will deal with many other national security cases.Reuters

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