Family and friends of former student leader Billy Fung are seeking a light sentence after he was convicted of disorderly conduct in a protest, telling the court that he committed his crime out of love for the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

West Kowloon court magistrate Ko Wai-hung ruled on Thursday that the former HKU student union president was guilty of acting in a disorderly manner, when he shouted at university council chair Arthur Li as students surrounded a council meeting in January 2016.

Fung’s supporters hope he will receive a community service order, but Ko said a jail term is likely.

billy fung
Billy Fung.

The 24-year-old graduate had earlier pleaded guilty to charges of criminal damage and forcible entry, as he tried to enter the school building where Li was chairing his first council meeting. Fung was acquitted of a charge of criminally intimidating the pro-Beijing medical professor.

See also: Ex-HKU student leader cleared of threatening council head Arthur Li, but guilty of alternative charge

Defence counsel Martin Lee held back tears as he read out a six-page mitigation letter from Fung’s mother on Thursday afternoon, reported Ming Pao. “He would die to defend HKU, which he loves,” she wrote.

Fung’s mother wrote in her letter that he suffered from leukaemia and had a brain tumour as a child. Fearing that he would suddenly succumb to sickness, he kept a note in his wallet addressed to strangers: “If I get lost, please take me back to HKU.” She added that this note showed how much he loved the university.

The letter also stated that Fung had tutored students for free, telling his mother that money was not important. “How many people in Hong Kong can say the same thing?” defence counsel Lee asked the magistrate.

West Kowloon Magistrates Court Law Courts Building
West Kowloon Magistrates Courts. File photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

Lee said that Fung felt he had a responsibility to speak up for his fellow students, as he was the president of the student union. He added that it was unlikely Fung would commit the same offence again.

Disqualified pro-democracy legislator Nathan Law and Commercial Radio chief advisor Stephen Chan also presented mitigation letters to the court.

Magistrate Ko granted bail to Fung and fellow student leader Colman Li , who was convicted of obstructing public officers in the execution of duty. Their sentences will be handed down on September 21.

Fung will be allowed to leave Hong Kong for a week earlier that month in order to complete registration procedures after he was accepted by a university in Taiwan.

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