The District Court has sentenced a student to two years in prison for conspiracy to commit arson in relation to a rubbish bin explosion outside the Legislative Council in December 2015. A second student was sent to a detention centre for participating in the incident.

The arson attack and explosion occurred after a rally against a controversial new copyright bill was cancelled by organisers. No one was injured.

legco rubbish bin
File Photo: HKFP remix.

Joe Yeung Yat-long, the former president of the Shue Yan University student union, previously pleaded not guilty. Ip Cheuk-yin, a culinary student, pleaded guilty.

Yeung was sentenced to two years jail, whilst Ip was sent to a detention centre.

According to the charges, Yeung and Ip, along with a several others they became acquainted with online, caused one of the rubbish bins at the demonstration area outside the Legislative Council building to explode. After his arrest, Ip admitted that he was in charge of keeping watch.

The charges also state that Yeung had asked for his friends’ assistance in buying newspaper and alcohol – items which were exchanged at a bathroom near the building. Yeung had been next to the rubbish bin when the incident happened.

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In further mitigation for Ip, his lawyer Anita Ma said Ip had always admitted his crime and felt remorseful about what he had done. He was also concerned about his future, reported RTHK.

Ma also said Ip wished to study in Taiwan but his criminal record prevented him from doing so, and that his only choice was to enrol in culinary studies. Ma asked for a lenient sentence as Ip will be struck off the school register if he did not attend for more than one month.

‘Foolish, selfish and reckless’

Deputy District Judge Lily Wong Sze-lai said it was fortunate that the explosion did not hurt anyone.

She said the pair’s actions were foolish, selfish and reckless, reported Inmedia. She said Yeung was already an adult when he committed the offence and therefore he should receive a sentence as a deterrent. She also said that several mitigation letters called Yeung a “promising person” but it was not a reason for more lenient sentence.

Yeung was well-known as a demonstrator during the pro-democracy protests in 2014, as he was found to be an auxiliary police officer when he shook hands with another officer during a retreat. He resigned from the auxiliary police service later on.

The judge denied the request of a lenient sentence for Ip, saying that there were no special circumstances whereby Ip could be given a non-custodial sentence. But she agreed that discipline training at a detention centre can help Ip develop a law-abiding mind, and it would act as a deterrent to others.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.