Hong Kong activist Tong Ying-kit, the first person jailed under the Beijing-imposed national security law, is set to challenge his conviction and sentence next March.

The Court of Appeal on Friday set a date for the 24-year-old to seek a reversal of the High Court’s decision in July, when three judges who had been specially selected to hear national security cases handed him a nine-year prison term for inciting secession and engaging in terrorist acts.

Tong Ying-kit
Supporters of Tong Ying-kit, Hong Kong’s first man to be convicted under the national security law, place leaflets in a mall adjacent to the High Court to wish the activist “peace and safety,” after he was sentenced to nine years behind bars on July 30, 2021. Photo: Studio Incendo.

The activist was arrested on July 1 last year, just hours after the security law came into force, when he drove a motorcycle with a flag reading “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” into three police officers during a demonstration in Wan Chai.

The protest slogan was said to be capable of inciting others to commit secession, while Tong’s act of ramming his vehicle into police “seriously jeopardised public safety or security,” the court ruled.

Tong’s 15-day trial saw the prosecution and defence call three academics to debate the meaning of the protest slogan, which was banned by the government a day after Tong’s arrest for carrying connotations of “pro-independence, secession and subversion.” The defence argued that its meaning was ambiguous.

On Friday Justice of Appeal Derek Pang set the hearing date for Tong’s challenge for March 22 and 23. He asked Tong’s lawyers – Senior Counsel Clive Grossman and barrister Tessa Chan – to file their written submissions by mid-January, followed by a response from the Department of Justice in two weeks’ time.

Grossman told the appeal court the trial judges had not dealt with some important evidence, and had misunderstood some points in the evidence that was heard.

He said he intended to submit the testimonies of three to four trial witnesses, including police officers and the prosecution’s expert witness and history professor Lau Chi-pang. They will play some videos in court as well, the lawyer said.

Clive Grossman and Lawrence Lau
Clive Grossman (right) and Lawrence Lau (left). File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Tong was represented by Grossman, Chan and another barrister Lawrence Lau in the landmark security law trial. Local media reported on Wednesday that Lau, who is a defendant in a separate national security case, was removed from Tong’s appeal bid.

New law firm assigned

On Friday Tong was also represented by a new firm of solicitors founded by Vincent To, a former member of the Shenzhen committee of Beijing’s political advisory body. The representation was reportedly assigned by the Legal Aid Department.

Last month, the government proposed revamping the city’s legal aid system, including assigning lawyers to defendants in criminal cases rather than allowing them to select one.

Critics said the right to choose a lawyer is enshrined in the Basic Law. Authorities said the changes would prevent a few lawyers from monopolising cases, and eliminate misconceptions that aid recipients are entitled to choose their preferred legal representatives.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.