The discussion covered a range of history, from the ancient Shang and Zhou dynasties to the Cultural Revolution and Malcolm X. Professor Lau testified that the slogan, which was coined in 2016 by Edward Leung, a now-imprisoned pro-independence activist, called for acts of violence to end China’s control of Hong Kong.
Mr. Tong’s attorneys had argued that the slogan was open to interpretation.
“Just as if somebody says let’s go fight for our rights, that doesn’t necessarily mean get out a gun and start shooting people,” said Clive Grossman, Mr. Tong’s lead defense attorney.
Two defense witnesses, Eliza Lee, a professor of politics at the University of Hong Kong, and Frances Lee, a professor in the journalism school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, testified that the phrase had carried a variety of meanings in recent years, including a general call for fundamental change.
The authorities had also accused Mr. Tong of committing terrorism because he had crashed into police officers who had tried to stop him. The court ruled that Mr. Tong’s collision into the officers “was a deliberate challenge mounted against the police, a symbol of Hong Kong’s law and order.”
“The defendant carried out those acts with a view to intimidating the public in order to pursue political agenda,” the judges wrote.
Mr. Grossman, the defense lawyer, acknowledged that Mr. Tong should have stopped when ordered to do so by officers, but he said that dangerous driving did not amount to terrorism. He argued that Mr. Tong had at first swerved to avoid the officers, and had braked once, but might have been distracted when at least one officer threw a shield.
“A person who sets out to commit the act of terrorism by driving into people does not put his foot on the brake,” Mr. Grossman said.