The first person to be tried under Hong Kong’s national security law appears to have attempted to slow his motorcycle to avoid hitting police officers who blocked its path during a protest last year, a government forensic scientist has said.
Prosecution witness Tsang Cheuk-nam testified at the High Court on Tuesday at the request of defendant Tong Ying-kit’s lawyers, who sought to establish that their 24-year-old client viewed the three policemen injured in a collision on July 1 last year as dangerous obstacles rather than targets.
The prosecution is pressing national security charges of secession and terrorism against Tong, whom they accuse of ramming his motorcycle into the three officers as part of a plot to further his pro-independence agenda on the day after the Beijing-imposed legislation took effect last year.
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They have also accused the defendant of inciting separatism by flying a flag that bore the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times” – the rallying cry of 2019’s anti-government protests.
Video footage of the crash shows the rear light of Tong’s motorcycle activated just before the impact, indicating the rider had applied the brake as he was about to run into the officers.
Tsang, who had been asked by the prosecution to estimate the speed of Tong’s motorcycle, was initially not called to testify in the witness box. However, the defence asked that he appear after finding parts of his evidence could prove beneficial to their case.
The analyst said that judging from the footage, Tong appeared to have hit the brakes 0.9 seconds before the collision, which reflected the standard reaction time for a driver who perceived danger ahead and was attempting an emergency stop.
“He did not only perceive the danger, but also decided to apply hard braking. That’s what I could tell from the footage,” Tsang said.
But the witness was quick to acknowledge that was an assumption he had made based on his experience in analysing traffic accidents.
Also appearing in the witness box on Tuesday was police Senior Inspector Eddie Cheung Wai-man, who compiled a report on the alleged separatist nature of the “Liberate Hong Kong” slogan.
The court heard the officer and eight colleagues reviewed 2,177 videos of protests that took place between June 9, 2019, and July 1 last year. They identified 825 clips in which the slogan was uttered, with some also showing acts of violence and what police characterised as attempts to commit secession and subversion.
The allegedly secessionist acts included people chanting or waving flags with pro-independence slogans, while calling for “divine punishment” on the Communist Party was deemed an attempt to subvert state power, according to police.
Cheung concluded in his report that the “Liberate Hong Kong” slogan was frequently used alongside other secessionist and subversive chants, especially in the period just before the promulgation of the security law on June 30 last year.
He also noted, however, that chanting the slogan did not necessarily accompany violence in past demonstrations.
Cheung’s report formed part of the basis for historian and Lingnan University vice-president Lau Chi-pang’s previous testimony for the prosecution that the slogan promoted separatism and therefore ran afoul of the security law.
The prosecution is expected to complete their evidence on Wednesday, at which point the three-judge panel will decide whether there is a prima facie case against the defendant.