National security law: Hong Kong slams ‘irresponsible’ US, EU comments after sentencing of first person convicted under legislation
- War of words erupted after Leon Tong, 24, was jailed for 9 years for riding his motorcycle into group of police officers while flying a flag calling for city’s ‘liberation’
- US State Department said it was deeply concerned Chinese officials were deploying law ‘as a political weapon to silence dissenting voices’
The former restaurant worker was found guilty of terrorism and incitement to commit secession over his actions carried out on July 1 last year, within hours of the Beijing-imposed law taking effect.
First person convicted under Hong Kong’s national security law jailed for 9 years
Hong Kong’s No 2 official, Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu, said on Saturday that anyone who attempted to challenge the bottom line of national security would be “setting themselves on fire”.
Defending the trial, he said Tong’s case was heard in open court, and the verdict was based on facts and evidence.
Following the sentencing, the US State Department said Washington was deeply concerned that Chinese officials were deploying the security law “as a political weapon to silence dissenting voices in Hong Kong and suppress protected rights and fundamental freedoms”.
Nabila Massrali, the EU’s spokeswoman on foreign affairs and security policy, meanwhile, said the national security law was being used to stifle the city’s political pluralism.
She added that the law affected the exercise of human rights and political freedoms in Hong Kong.
In a statement on Saturday evening, a Hong Kong government spokesman hit back, expressing “deep regret and utter dismay at some irresponsible remarks”.
“We deeply regret and reject remarks by officials from the US and the EU which were blatantly trampling on Hong Kong’s judicial strengths, let alone their usual politically motivated interference in the internal affairs of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China,” the spokesman said.
He added the authorities were “shocked to hear” the US and EU saying the national security law was “being abused in Hong Kong without any evidence or substantiation”.
“We urge the US and EU authorities to respect the rule of law and refrain from making any attempt to influence our courts in exercising their independent judicial power,” he said.
Earlier in the day, the foreign ministry’s arm in Hong Kong also weighed in, calling on politicians overseas to stop interfering in how the city’s courts handled cases in accordance with the law.
A spokesman for the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed his dissatisfaction, saying the comments smeared the security law and the city’s rule of law.