Tong Ying-kit’s slogan is about ‘taking back Hong Kong from enemy’, professor tells court

Here are the highlights from Day 5 of the trial:

  • A history professor testified that “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times” meant overthrowing the government and recovering the city from an enemy.
  • The slogan’s creator Edward Leung called for regime change, the professor said.
  • Defendant Tong Ying-kit’s motorcycle hit a second police shield before crashing.

A protest slogan created years ago by jailed activist Edward Leung painted the Chinese government as an “enemy regime” and called on the public to overthrow Beijing’s rule of Hong Kong, a history expert said in court on Friday.

Professor Lau Chi-pang was giving the High Court his take on the meaning of the Cantonese slogan commonly translated as “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times”. Those words were shown on a protest flag flown by defendant Tong Ying-kit when he allegedly drove his motorcycle into a group of policemen on July 1, 2020.

In the first half of the slogan, the Cantonese term gwong fuk (光復), which was the equivalent of “liberate”, meant “recovering a regime or national territory that has fallen into the hands of the enemy or a foreign ethnic group”, Lau said. He added that the second phrase should be understood as a literal call for regime change.

Tong, 24, is standing trial as the first person charged under Hong Kong’s national security law. He has pleaded not guilty to terrorism, inciting secession and dangerous driving. A trio of designated national security judges is hearing the case without a jury.

Slogan users think Hong Kong does not belong to China, professor says.

Lau was testifying as an expert witness for the prosecution. He is a professor of Lingnan University’s history department, the university’s associate vice-president and a member of its governing council.

The slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times” considered the People’s Republic of China as an enemy, he told the court.

“By proposing gwong fuk heung gong (光復香港), the speaker is placed into a legitimate position, and makes a determination that the government they face is illegitimate and not legal; therefore [that government] must be an enemy or controlled by a foreign ethnic group,” Lau said.

Users of the slogan disavowed both the local and central governments, and saw Beijing as “unlawfully possessing the city”, he said. “The speaker believes that Hong Kong does not belong to the People’s Republic of China.”

As for the latter half of the slogan, Lau said the term “revolution” should be understood in a political sense, which he said was the prevailing meaning of the term in Chinese. The expression meant overthrowing and changing a regime or social system, which would in turn lead to “a change of the times”, he said.

Lau argued that the terms gwong fuk (光復) and gak ming (革命), translated as “liberate” and “revolution”, had retained the same meaning in China for more than 1,000 years. The former could be traced back to the Three Kingdoms period and the latter was used as early as the Shang and Zhou dynasties.

“My opinion is that the usage of gwong fuk (光復) from the period of Three Kingdoms to modern China has not changed,” Lau said. He also noted that a proper translation of gwong fuk (光復) should encompass the meaning of restoring, recovering and reviving.

Edward Leung campaign videos and leaflet are cited in court.

The slogan was first used by local activist Edward Leung when he ran for the Hong Kong legislature in 2016. On Friday, the prosecution showed two video clips of Leung’s campaign speech, on the basis of which Lau concluded that Leung was advocating Hong Kong independence at the time.

“Leung's political manifesto was that Hong Kong’s regime was utterly unacceptable, and so was the central government behind the local regime,” Lau said in his testimony. “He called on voters to support him to change that situation.”

The prosecution also cited an election campaign leaflet featuring the slogan. When challenged by the defence as to the document’s relevance, prosecutors said the slogan must be considered in context. In the flyer, Leung said Hong Kong had always been autonomous, such as in representing itself at international events like the Olympics, the court heard.

By telling voters to resist the “red tide”, the leaflet sent a clear message of urging the public to “use force to challenge the current regime” and to achieve regime change through violence, Lau said. 

“This leaflet itself means that Hong Kong can exist independently, and stay far away from the influence of Chinese communists… Leung believed that Hong Kong was a political entity that can govern itself,” the professor added.

Lau will continue his testimony when the trial resumes on Monday. The prosecution said it planned to show more videos of Leung.

Tong’s motorcycle might have run into another police shield before crashing, the defence says.

Earlier in the day, the prosecution called Constable Chu Kwun-keung, who was part of a police checkpoint in Wan Chai that eventually stopped Tong’s motorcycle. Chu said he arrested Tong and requested an ambulance after the defendant said he felt pain in his left leg. Chu added that he did not see any of his colleagues beating Tong with their batons.

Tong was arrested for furious driving and inciting and abetting secession at around 3.40pm. Defence lawyer Clive Grossman SC suggested that Chu did so only because he knew the crash was an accident; otherwise the constable would have arrested the motorcyclist for attempted murder, he said. Chu disagreed that it was an accident but said he made the arrest based on appropriate grounds.

Chu was also questioned on how he lost hold of a police shield during the collision. The officer said he was holding the round shield by the edge with his right hand while using his left to reach for other equipment. The motorcycle knocked the shield out of his grip when it went past him, Chu said.

The constable turned down a suggestion of having thrown the shield at Tong, saying that his “natural reaction” was to stop the motorcyclist with his right hand. The shield was partly raised at the time, he added.

Defence lawyers previously made a similar point regarding another shield-toting policeman at the checkpoint, saying that his shield had been deliberately thrown at Tong and had caused the collision. That earlier accusation was rejected by the testifying officer on Wednesday.

Also on Friday, the court heard from the driver of a brown car that Tong’s motorcycle overtook moments before the crash. Lau Chi-fai said he was shocked when he saw the vehicle crash into police officers ahead of him. He said he could not estimate the motorcycle’s speed as “things happened very quickly”.

By Holmes Chan

Day 1: Hong Kong’s first national security suspect Tong Ying-kit goes on trial
Day 2: Police fired pepper balls at Tong Ying-kit’s speeding motorbike, court hears
Day 3: Role of police arm shield in Tong Ying-kit crash under question in court
Day 4: “I had a feeling” Tong Ying-kit meant to flee after crashing, says injured policeman