Former Hong Kong University (HKU) student union president Billy Fung has been sentenced to 240 hours of community service for acting in a disorderly manner, attempted forceful entry and criminal damage during a protest on campus last January.

The 23-year-old graduate was acquitted of criminally intimidating governing council chair Arthur Li during a council meeting protest last January, but was convicted of the alternative charge of acting in a disorderly manner. The magistrate Ko Wai-hung had previously said that a jail term was likely.

Another former student union member Colman Li, 21, was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for obstructing public officers in the execution of duty at the protest for blocking an ambulance carrying a council member from leaving.

File photo: In-Media.

Fung earlier pleaded guilty to attempting to force his way into the school building where the meeting was held, and damaging the front door of the building.

Martin Lee, defence counsel for the duo, said in court that they have remorse and will not appeal.

Following the controversial appointment of Arthur Li as council chairman in December 2015, students surrounded the venue of the first meeting chaired by Li at the Sassoon Road campus, to demand that the council respond to their four demands to reform its structure. Council members were unable to leave the campus until four hours after the meeting ended. HKU reported the incident to the police after it occurred.

Fung was accused of threatening Li during the protest by shouting as he was next to Li: “Don’t let him go! Don’t let Arthur Li go! Kill him! Kill him!” Though the Cantonese phrase for “kill” can also be interpreted as “knock down,” the court adopted the former interpretation. The counsel for Fung argued that he did not utter the words.

Arthur Li being surrounded after a HKU council meeting.

Li told the court that he was scared when Fung shouted the words, and that Fung was the “mastermind” behind the “riot.” He said two men pulled at his right arm and swore at him, and added that he believed the duo was attempting to pull him out and attack him.

During the verdict in July, magistrate Ko Wai-hung said that Li was an honest and trustworthy witness. He said it would not be impossible for Li to make out Fung’s words in a chaotic, noisy scene.

Ko also dismissed the argument that Fung was merely acting emotionally because Fung repeatedly uttered the words.

But Ko acquitted Fung on the basis that he could not be sure that the words “kill him” – instead of “kill you” – were meant to threaten Li himself.

The protesters at the campus. Photo: HKUSU Undergrad.

In court on Thursday, defence counsel Martin Lee, in referring to a Court of Appeal judgment over the Occupy trio’s jail sentences, said the ruling was made after the current incident took place and that the sentencing guidelines did not apply to this case. Otherwise, Lee argued, there would be a retroactive effect and injustice would be resulted.

Lee also said that according to the probation officer’s report, the suitable sentence for the two defendants was community service. However, the magistrate said that if the case was serious, the court should not give community service orders.

But the magistrate accepted that the two were truly remorseful.

Pro-Beijing figures Abraham Shek and Leonie Ki, who are both on the HKU council, put in letters of mitigation for Fung and Colman Li respectively. Ki wrote that she had accepted the Li’s apology and forgiven him.

Leonie Ki Man-fung surrounded by protesters.

Outgoing HKU Vice-Chancellor Peter Mathieson and former HKU council chair Edward Leong also submitted letters of mitigation but they were not read out in court.

Fung was previously accepted to a masters’ program at the National Taiwan University’s Department of Political Science.

Kris Cheng

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.