A man jailed for nine years for riding a motorcycle carrying a banned slogan of the 2019 protest movement has appeared in another mainland Chinese-style televised “confession,” as part of a series of propaganda films made by the Hong Kong police in praise of a harsh security law.
“I wasn’t thinking straight. I was under the influence of the atmosphere that prevailed at that time,” Tong Ying-kit says in the police-made video published Dec. 12 to the website of Hong Kong broadcaster TVB.
“It felt as if there was no way to resolve issues other than through violence,” says Tong, who appears in prison uniform with his back to the camera.
A narrator intones: “Tong Ying-kit became the first person to be prosecuted under the National Security Law for ‘inciting others to secession’ and ‘terrorism.’ He was just 23 years old at the time.”
The video is the second “confession” by a political prisoner to air in Hong Kong, and comes amid a citywide crackdown on political opposition and public criticism of the authorities under the National Security Law, which Beijing imposed in 2020 in response to protests the year before.
Last week, Tsang Chi-kin, who was jailed for “rioting” after being shot in the chest by police during the 2019 protest movement, made a similar video claiming that he too was drawn into the movement as emotions ran high.
“#HongKong police & pro-CCP TV station TVB have broadcast a #propaganda video of Tong Ying-kit, the 1st person prosecuted under the national security law,” the U.S.-based Hong Kong Democracy Council said via its account on X, formerly Twitter.
“This is the 2nd show using a #PoliticalPrisoner. It is reprehensible coercion similar to CCP-style forced televised confession,” the council said.
‘Free Hong Kong’ banner
Tong was jailed in July 2021 after much of the case was spent deciding whether the banned protest slogan on his banner – “Free Hong Kong, revolution now!” – could be considered an incitement to secession, or independence for the city.
The judges said Tong’s offense was “serious” and therefore deserving of a jail term of between five and 10 years, but said his call for “secession” hadn’t come with a plan attached, and that he had committed the offense alone.
They said that while the police officers who brought him and his motorbike down weren’t seriously injured, Tong’s actions were pre-planned, and his bike was a “lethal weapon.”
“These were very serious criminal charges that could have resulted in life imprisonment,” Tong says in the video. The narrator highlights how much he misses his family, adding that he has enrolled in a rehabilitation program to help him “manage his emotions,” and is studying for a high-school qualification.
The ends with footage of Tong handling and saluting the flag of the People’s Republic of China in a formal flag-raising ceremony of the kind now commonly seen in schools and other public institutions in Hong Kong.
Political prisoner honored
The video was released as another prominent political prisoner – barrister and former 1989 Tiananmen massacre vigil organizer Chow Hang-tung – was honored by two European governments with a human rights award.
Chow was announced on International Human Rights Day as one of 12 activists, journalists and lawyers “working to defend the inalienable rights of each and every human being” being presented with the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.
“They are committed to the cause of justice, political participation and unbiased reporting in the media, often risking their own freedom, frequently even their lives, under the most difficult conditions,” it said.
The Hong Kong government hit out at the foreign affairs ministries of France and Germany over the award, expressing its “strong disapproval.”
“Chow Hang-tung is facing a criminal prosecution of ‘incitement to subversion’ and the case has been committed to the Court of First Instance of the High Court awaiting trial,” a spokesman said. “The judicial proceedings of the case are still ongoing, but the ministries of foreign affairs of France and Germany have issued the so-called prize … in the name of ‘human rights’ and the ‘rule of law’.”
Authorities in Hong Kong will continue to “effectively prevent, suppress and punish acts and activities that endanger national security,” the spokesman said.
Last month, Chow, who has been behind bars since September 2021, was honored with Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe human rights awards, alongside Chinese rights attorneys Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, who were jailed in April for attending a 2019 gathering of dissidents in the southeastern city of Xiamen.
Translated with additional reporting by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.