Nine jurors have been selected for the case of five men charged with rioting and other offences during the February 2016 Mong Kok clashes.
The jurors include four males and five females. They will hear the case of Edward Leung, Lee Nok-man, Lo Kin-man, Lam Ngo-hin and Lam Lun-hing. The trial is expected to take 60 days and conclude by May.
The five are facing charges such as rioting, participating in an unlawful assembly and assaulting police officers. They have all denied the charges, but Edward Leung pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer and remains in custody.
During the jury selection, a person was chosen but asked for exemption since he teaches at an university. He claimed that participating in the case would affect 90 students set to graduate. He was exempted by the judge, according to RTHK.
The public broadcaster also reported that four other people were exempted by the judge for reasons including planned travels ahead of jury selection, being a news reporter, and the frequent need for physiotherapy.
One selected juror said a family member was a police officer and she was concerned about potential bias. According to Apple Daily, Judge Anthea Pang had reminded her to put aside any bias, but the juror said: “The clashes were quite serious, I believe it is difficult.”
She was rejected as a juror after defence lawyers opposed her selection.
Another chosen person claimed he was a loyal supporter of political group Hong Kong Indigenous – which Edward Leung belonged to before he withdrew. He said he had donated to the group, thus he was concerned about potential bias. He was asked by the judge to be listed as a reserve juror, after consideration.
The judge said the jurors ought put aside all their past opinions about the case, including media reports, online commentary and information via other means. They should only rule according to evidence presented in the case and they cannot privately search for information or investigate the matter in order to avoid unfairness.
Another defendant, Wong Ka-kui, admitted to one count of rioting, but denied assaulting police officers. He was also taken into custody.
Two more defendants – Ray Wong and Li Tung-sing – were originally set to be tried together alongside the five defendants, but their case was separated from the trial after they failed to attend a pre-trial review hearing in December. The two are being sought by police, with an arrest warrant issued.
Of those arrested, six people have since been sentenced to jail for rioting – receiving up to four years and nine months behind bars. One was handed a training centre order.
Rioting carries a maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment under the Public Order Ordinance, while the maximum penalty for assaulting police officers is two years in prison under the Offences against the Person Ordinance.
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