HONG KONG – A Hong Kong The opposition activist was jailed for 40 months on Wednesday following the city’s first crime trial since the handover of British rule to the Chinese nearly 25 years ago.
Sentencing politician and former broadcaster Tam Tak-chi at the District Court, Judge Stanley Chan said he could not ignore Hong Kong’s “socio-political reality” with Protracted and violent protests rocked the city in 2019.
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Noting that Tam’s offense took place in the first half of 2020, Mr. Chan said in his remarks that “the court cannot take social and political realities as a basis for sentencing, which also allows better understand the gravity of the accused’s crime and its political aims. ”
He convicted Tam of 11 counts including inciting speech, disturbing public order and instigating participation in an illegal assembly. Tam was also fined HK$5,000 ($638).
Tam was arrested in July 2020, weeks after Beijing imposed national security law scan on the city.
While the charges related to existing offenses preceded the new law, his case was settled by Judge Chan, part of a new panel selected by the Hong Kong Chief Executive. Carrie Lam handling cases related to national security.
Judge Chan had previously accepted the prosecution’s argument that Tam’s public use of the protest slogan, popularized in 2019, “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”, carries the connotation of pro-independence.
Lawyers defended Tam in court that he has been passionate about politics and society for a long time and wants change for the sake of society, not for his own benefit.
Legal scholars say the colonial-era crime charge has not been used for decades, but is likely to see more use once the security law is in place.
Other activists have since been jailed for anesthesia after Tam’s arrest.
Western governments and other critics say the national security law puts freedoms at risk with tough bail terms and expanding police powers under a punishing legal regime. punish acts of subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with life imprisonment.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials say the law is important to ensure stability after the 2019 protests and say the prosecutions are not political.
Tam said on his Facebook page on Wednesday that he would appeal, saying “my sentence will affect Hong Kong people’s right to free speech.”