Tong awaits fate after closing slogan clash

The slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" is open to various interpretations, the defense said in the closing summary of the first national security case in High Court, but the prosecution insisted it is subversive. The interpretation is a key element in the trial of Tong...

Wallis Wang

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The slogan "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" is open to various interpretations, the defense said in the closing summary of the first national security case in High Court, but the prosecution insisted it is subversive.

The interpretation is a key element in the trial of Tong Ying-kit, 24, a waiter, who is the first person to be arrested and prosecuted under the national security law.

National security judges Anthea Pang Po-kam, Esther Toh Lye-ping and Wilson Chan Ka-shun yesterday adjourned the case to Tuesday for the verdict.

Their verdict will reflect how the court handled other national security cases.

The court has heard that Tong rode his motorcycle into a group of police officers in Wan Chai while flying a flag with the "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times" slogan on July 1 last year - the day the security law imposed by Beijing went into effect.

Tong has pleaded not guilty to inciting secession, terrorism and an alternative charge of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm to three officers.

In the closing summary, deputy director of public prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang said the court should accept the expert report written by prosecution witness history professor Lau Chi-pang of Lingnan University.

Lau had conducted the research from a historical perspective and believed the slogan meant separating Hong Kong from China, Chau said.

Chau said even the defense expert witnesses - University of Hong Kong politics and public administration professor Eliza Lee Wing-yee and Chinese University journalism professor Francis Lee Lap-fung - agreed that the slogan conveys pro-independence connotations to some people.

Chau insisted the two defense experts were unreliable and their research could not facilitate the court's understanding of the slogan.

He said that although the two defense experts conducted focus group interviews, phone interviews and analyzed online posts, their research was still biased because of some "leading questions" they asked.

Chau said the defense witnesses are not experts in Chinese history or Chinese literature, and appealed to the court to accept Lau's expert report and understand the slogan by the simple and common meaning of the words.

But Tong's lawyer, senior counsel Clive Grossman, said Lau's interpretation of the slogan was an "untenable rigid mechanical view of history" while the defense experts focused on the modern use of the slogan.

Grossman said Lau stressed too much on the "customary use" of the words and completely ignored "rhetoric" factors.

For example, people who say "go out and fight for your rights" may not be asking others to "fight with others physically," he said, adding a slogan may have various meanings.

He said "revolution" could also mean "big change" instead of secession connotations and a slogan could be used to express emotions rather than political demands.

As long as the court agrees there are different interpretations of the slogan, Tong should be acquitted of the charge of inciting secession, Grossman said. He also defended the two defense experts, saying Eliza Lee is a well-known politics expert and Francis Lee is a famous journalism and communication expert with statistics knowledge, while Lau had no knowledge in statistics.

He added that the research methods used by the defense were conventional and standard methods and the experts conducted the research in an objective manner.

There was no evidence to show how Tong interpreted the slogan, Grossman said. He added that if Tong intended to incite others, he could have used clearer words on the flag - such as "Hong Kong independence" - to express his opinion instead of using a vague one.

In previous hearings, Lau told the court that "Liberate Hong Kong" means snatching Hong Kong from enemies, which means not accepting Hong Kong as part of China and seeing Chinese authority as the enemy.

"Revolution of our times" also means changing sovereignty, he said.

But the defense experts said this is only one of the interpretations of the slogan, with Eliza Lee saying it was unreasonable and showed a poor understanding of it.

wallis.wang@singtaonewscorp.com