Hong Kong activist Tong Ying-kit, the first person jailed under the national security law for inciting secession and committing terrorist acts, has withdrawn his appeal against his conviction and nine-year sentence.
Tong’s former legal representative, Senior Counsel Clive Grossman, told HKFP on Thursday that the 24-year-old had decided not to pursue the legal challenge “a few months ago,” but did not give an exact date.
On the Judiciary’s website, searches made using the initial case number of Tong’s appeal – CACC175/2021 – showed there were no hearing dates scheduled for the case.
Originally scheduled to be heard in March, the appeal would have been the first-ever attempt to take issue with the legislation imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing less than two years ago. Aside from secession and terrorism, the law also targets subversion and collusion with foreign forces.
According to Grossman, Tong informed the court about his decision by writing a letter from prison and did not offer any explanation to his legal team, which was retained using legal aid.
The senior counsel said he had “no idea” why his client chose to drop the appeal, and he only learned about the withdrawal when he received a letter from the court. He had not met Tong since then, he said.
Asked if he was “shocked” by Tong’s decision, Grossman, who also defended Tong in the landmark national security trial last year, replied: “Shocking is a bit of a strong word… I would say it was surprising.”
The activist was put behind bars in July last year after spending more than a year in custody following his arrest on July 1, 2020. On that day, he drove a motorcycle with a flag reading “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” into three policemen during a protest in Wan Chai, hours after the security law came into force.
During the 15-day trial at the High Court, the prosecution and the defence summoned several academics to debate the meaning of the eight-word slogan, which was eventually ruled as being capable of inciting others to commit secession.
Tong’s act of ramming his vehicle into police, on the other hand, had “seriously jeopardised public safety or security,” the three-judge panel ruled.
Last November, the Court of Appeal arranged Tong’s appeal hearing to take place on March 22 and 23. Justice of Appeal Derek Pang instructed his lawyers to file their written submissions by mid-January, followed by a response from the Department of Justice two weeks later.
During the November hearing, Tong was represented by a new solicitors’ firm founded by Vincent To, a former member of the Shenzhen committee of Beijing’s political advisory body. HKFP has reached out to the firm for comment on Tong’s appeal withdrawal.
Local media reported at the time that the representation was assigned by the Legal Aid Department, which saw a recent administrative revamp including assigning lawyers to legal aid applicants rather than allowing them to pick who represents them.
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