Hong Kong ousted lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung and their three assistants have been found guilty of participating in an unlawful assembly during a chaotic episode at the legislature in 2016.
The group were charged with participating in an unlawful assembly and an alternative charge of forced entry in relation to chaotic scenes at the legislature in November 2016 during the oath row.
The three assistants convicted are Yeung Lai-hong, Chung Suet-ying and Cheng Tsz-lung. The five will be sentenced on June 4.
During Friday’s verdict hearing at the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts, Acting Principal Magistrate Wong Sze-lai said that parts of the defence of the two ex-lawmakers were contradictory and illogical. She rejected their version of events that they had acted spontaneously and were only trying to leave the scene.
She said that, even if they genuinely believed they were still lawmakers at the time, it was not a valid reason shielding them from criminal liability.
The magistrate added that the court had jurisdiction over the case, as the conduct in question related to criminal offences, not legislative affairs.
The ex-lawmakers and their assistants were released on bail, while the magistrate sought a community service order report of the third defendant Yeung Lai-hong.
Leung expressed disappointment at the judgment after the verdict hearing.
He said the judgment failed to discuss a few key principles, such as whether they were lawmakers exercising their rights to attend meetings at the time, and whether the actions of the security guards were lawful.
- On November 2, 2016, the pair tried to barge into a meeting room following Legislative Council President Andrew Leung’s decision to bar them from attending any meetings. At the time, the duo were facing a judicial review challenge filed by the government contesting the validity of their oaths of office as lawmakers.
- After the government filed the challenge, Beijing issued an interpretation of the oath-related provision of the Basic Law. High Court judge Thomas Au subsequently ruled that the oaths of Yau and Leung were invalid, thereby disqualifying them from the legislature.
- Two weeks after the ruling, the Court of Appeal upheld the pair’s disqualifications, saying that Beijing’s interpretations declare “what the law has always been” and therefore have a retroactive effect dating from 1 July 1997 when the Basic Law came into operation.
- Last August, Hong Kong’s highest court rejected the duo’s appeal application on the basis that the grounds under which leave was sought were “not reasonably argued.”
The defence said during this trial that, despite Beijing’s interpretation, the pair still had the right to enter the meeting room at the time of the incident.
They argued that criminal offences have no retrospective effect under Article 12 of the Bill of Rights Ordinance, suggesting that the duo should not be held criminally liable for what was legal at the time.
The prosecution summoned 13 witnesses during the trial.
Under the Public Order Ordinance, it is an offence for a minimum of three people to act together in a disorderly manner with the intent to cause others to fear that a breach of the peace will be committed. The offence is punishable by three years in prison on summary conviction.