Police fired pepper balls at Tong Ying-kit’s speeding motorbike, court hears

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Defendant Tong Ying-kit allegedly drove his motorcycle at up to 60 km/h.
  • The motorcycle sped past three police checkpoints in quick succession as crowds cheered and clapped.
  • An officer shot two pepper ball rounds at the vehicle but missed.

A police officer testified in court on Thursday that he shot two pepper ball rounds at the motorcycle driven last year by Tong Ying-kit, the defendant in Hong Kong’s first national security trial. 

On the second day of the 15-day trial, the prosecution focused the court’s attention on the driving route Tong took across Hong Kong Island on July 1, 2020, before he eventually collided with police officers. Tong sped past three police checkpoints at “high speed” in Wan Chai, according to five police witnesses.

Tong, 24, is charged with terrorism and inciting secession under Hong Kong’s national security law, offences that could land him in jail for life. He also faces a backup charge of dangerous driving. 

Prosecutors allege that Tong drove a motorcycle with a flag bearing the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times”, and injured three police officers during a collision. A trio of designated national security judges are hearing his case in the High Court without a jury.

Constable says he shot at Tong’s motorbike to make him stop.

On Thursday, police constable Lo Chung-lai said Tong’s motorcycle was moving at around 40 km/h and accelerated towards him and other officers guarding the junction of Luard and Jaffe roads. He shot two pepper ball rounds while aiming at Tong’s body; both missed.

“He was charging towards us and could have hit my colleagues,” Lo told the court, adding that the motorcycle was just one or two metres away from other officers. The constable said he was six metres away from the vehicle when he fired.

Clive Grossman, for the defence, asked: “Would it not have caused an accident if you hit him in the body? Don’t you think it would be more dangerous?” 

“No, because I wanted to hit his body to cause him to stop,” Lo replied. He said the motorcycle was more likely to crash if Tong was hit from afar, which was why he fired at close range.

Grossman challenged Lo’s earlier witness statement that said Tong turned his motorcycle after the projectiles were fired. The defence lawyer produced a video clip in court showing a plume of smoke was visible when the vehicle arrived at the junction, and another plume of smoke that appeared after it turned right — meaning the second shot might have been fired as Tong was already moving away.

Lo conceded that he “did not make a detailed enough description” in his earlier statement, and the prosecution said it had not seen the video before.

Onlookers cheered and clapped for Tong as he zoomed past the police.

The court is hearing from five police witnesses, including Lo, who were on duty at the Wan Chai police checkpoints on the afternoon of July 1 last year. 

Tong came upon the first checkpoint, on Hennessy Road, at 3:37pm, said Anthony Chau, the acting deputy director of public prosecutions.

Superintendent Tam Wan-yee, who encountered Tong’s motorcycle at that checkpoint, said the defendant drove past her team at “very high speed”. She then heard nearby onlookers cheering, which was so loud it eclipsed the noise of the motorcycle speeding away.

Grossman noted that Tong managed to drive between the group of officers. “If [Tong] had intended to run into the policemen, he could have done that easily?” he asked. Tam agreed that it was possible for the defendant to drive into them, though she said she could not know what Tong was thinking.

Senior Inspector Ben Wong, who was at the same checkpoint as Tam, said Tong posed an “imminent danger” to the officers present. He used a loudhailer and shouted at Tong to stop, to no avail. The motorbike must have been driving faster than 50 km/h and was accelerating, Wong said.

Like his colleagues, he agreed under cross-examination that Tong could have hit the officers had he wanted to.

Sergeant Choo Kong, who was part of another police line further down the road, saw Tong’s motorcycle approach them at speeds of between 40 and 60 km/h. Choo raised his baton and shouted at Tong, who did not stop. 

Tong’s driving manner and speed led him to be concerned that his colleagues could be hurt, Choo said. He admitted under cross-examination that Tong swerved away at the last moment to avoid hitting the officers, and that it was possible for Tong to choose to ram into them. 

When Tong drove past, “around 50 to 60 people” cheered and clapped from the nearby pavement and footbridge, Choo said.

At the third checkpoint, located at the junction of Luard and Jaffe roads, was Detective Police Constable Wong Sun-wa. 

Wong told the court that his team at the location was already aware of a motorcycle driving around with a flag, as it had been alerted by Tam, who was among the first to spot the vehicle and had radioed her colleagues to say the words on the flag “might possibly be in breach of the national security law”. Wong said he and his colleagues wanted to stop Tong’s vehicle to check if this was the case.

The trial will resume on Friday morning with Lo continuing his testimony.

By Holmes Chan

 

Day 1 coverage: Hong Kong’s first national security suspect Tong Ying-kit goes on trial

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