An outspoken student activist has been found guilty of obstructing police officers during a protest in Mong Kok shortly after last year’s pro-democracy Occupy protests ended. The verdict has sparked online fury among people who support confrontational methods of protests.

The 26-year-old activist, Alvin Cheng Kam-mun, was convicted at the Kowloon City Court and denied bail on Thursday. The magistrate did not rule out the possibility of imprisonment, which will be decided at the sentencing hearing on August 20.

Cheng, who founded a now-defunct protest group Student Front during the Occupy demonstrations, was arrested during a mass protest that took over Mong Kok streets in the early hours of December 25.

Magistrate Veronica Heung Shuk-han said that the activist crossed the road at the intersection between Argyle Street and Sai Yeung Choi Street despite police cordon and verbal warnings from officers.

Cheng reportedly told officers at that time, “I need to go home via this route, or else I will have to take a detour.” Heung rejected the activist’s defence, saying that it was not necessary for Cheng to use Argyle Street given that his registered address was on Peace Avenue.

Map showing route between Sai Yeung Choi Street and Peace Avenue. Photo: Google Maps.
Map showing route between the Sai Yeung Choi Street/Argyle Street intersection and Peace Avenue. Photo: Google Maps.

The judge added that Cheng could not have missed police warnings, since there were waist-level barricade tapes to prevent anyone from crossing at the time when Cheng was present.

A defence witness said that he saw police officers push Cheng to the ground and hit him with their batons. But the magistrate said the claim was exaggerated as the officers did not appear to use force against Cheng in a video provided by the witness.

alvin cheng occupyhk
Alvin Cheng has been convicted of obstructing police during last year’s protest in Mong Kok. & Stand News.

Some people who gathered outside the court to voice support for Cheng reportedly broke into tears after hearing the news.

The ruling also sparked outrage among people who prefer confrontational forms of protests. A netizen wrote, “When every activist is no longer afraid of going to jail, it will be the beginning of a revolution.”

Cheng’s lawyer asked for mitigation of punishment, citing that Cheng had been detained for eight days following the arrest and his case was less serious than other Occupy-related cases. The lawyer also asked the judge not to sentence Cheng to community service as Cheng would like to continue his studies in Australia, which has been suspended due to the court case.

However, the judge replied that the case was not the least serious among Occupy-related court cases. The court will obtain Cheng’s background reports prior to his sentencing hearing on August 20.

Under the Offences Against The Person Ordinance, the charge of obstructing police carries a maximum sentence of two years. 

Correction 13/2/2023: An earlier version of this article gave the incorrect name for the protest group that was founded by Alvin Cheng Kam-mun. We regret the error.

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Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.