A defendant charged with rioting during last February’s Mong Kok clashes has sought to discard a statement he made to police as evidence in his trial, claiming that he spoke after being deprived of adequate food and sleep.

Counsel for 25-year-old Lin Yun-fat said he had been beaten for two to three minutes by police officers after being arrested on the night of February 9. The District Court was told he only gave a statement under caution as he was physically and mentally tired, reported local paper Ming Pao.

mong kok fehd riot protest
Mong Kok unrest. File photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

As one of five defendants currently on trial, Lin faces a joint count of rioting alongside Chris Yung Tsz-hin, 18 and Law Ho-yin, 20. Meanwhile Sung Kwan-wo, 27 and Leo Chan Siu-kwan, 48 were charged with one count of rioting each.

On Wednesday morning, counsel for Lin said that he was taken into a police van after his beating. He witnessed an officer slap fellow defendant Sung on the face when he said he had the right to seek legal assistance.

The court was told that Lin waited at the lobby of a police station where the temperature was cold owing to the air-conditioning. The arrested protesters were prevented from sleeping or yawning, and Lin was given a lunch box without enough food to eat.

Counsel added that police officers encouraged Lin to admit to throwing bricks as a way of being quickly released on bail – he therefore agreed to give a statement under caution.

Called as a witness on Wednesday, police senior inspector Lee Ka-chim said he recognised Lin as a brick-thrower because he was wearing a red hoodie. He identified the locations where Lin stood in two separate video clips shown to the court, reported Ming Pao.

Police at the Mong Kok protest. File Photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.
Mong Kok unrest. File photo: Kris Cheng, HKFP.

Under the Public Order Ordinance, rioting carries a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment. However, the District Court is only allowed to hand down sentences with a maximum length of seven years.

See also: 5 deny rioting in Mong Kok unrest, as prosecution submits 105 screenshots as evidence

The violent protests took place on the night of Lunar New Year in 2016 over an attempt by police and hygiene officials to clear street hawkers in Mong Kok. Four defendants have already been convicted and jailed for rioting beginning in March. The trial of the five new protesters continues on Thursday.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.