Two men who were convicted on multiple charges relating to the 2016 Mong Kok unrest were each handed a jail sentence of three years on Thursday.

Judge Albert Wong sentenced Yung Wai-ip and Yuen Chi-kui to jail, despite their lawyers arguing that both men suffered from mental illnesses and were unsuitable for imprisonment.

Yung Wai-ip
Yung Wai-ip. File photo:

In March, a jury convicted Yung – also known by his nickname “Captain America” – of two counts of rioting and one count of assaulting a police officer. Yuen pleaded guilty to two rioting charges and one arson charge at the start of the trial last year.

The Mong Kok unrest took place during February 8 and 9 in 2016 – the first two days of the Lunar New Year. It was triggered by the authorities’ attempts to clear street hawkers, which escalated into a bloody clash between police and protesters.

“Both defendants stayed [on the scene] for over eight hours, and must have known about what was happening and chose to continue participating,” Wong said. “They cannot say they acted on the spur of the moment.”

Yuen chi-kui
Yuen Chi-kui. , handout.

Wong also said that the sentences must have a deterrent effect, given that the crime in question was a violent act.

No probation granted

Citing medical reports, lawyer Douglas Kwok said that Yung was diagnosed as autistic when he was three, and he suffered from mild intellectual disability.

Lawyer Ronny Leung, representing Yuen, also said that his client was diagnosed with autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger’s syndrome and oppositional defiant disorder.

Both men’s conditions meant they might be bullied in prison, and the lack of timely treatment may hurt their reintegration into society after their time is served, their lawyers said.

high court
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The court had earlier sought probation reports and community service suitability reports for Yung and Yuen.

Wong said that the sentencing took into account an individual’s need for rehabilitation, but that factor can be outweighed by society’s needs. Despite a probation officer recommending 18-month probation for Yung, the judge opted for him to be jailed immediately.

Violence was a major factor influencing the sentence, Wong said.

He noted that a police officer testified in court that it “rained bricks” during the events at Shantung Street – a description that the judge said was “no exaggeration.”

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

Wong added that some of the mitigation letters submitted on behalf of Yung were “moving,” and reduced the sentence due to the two men’s medical conditions.

Mong Kok unrest trial

The sentencing of Yung and Yuen on Thursday signalled the end of a lengthy, 70-day trial. Aside from the duo, the court previously heard the case against localist Edward Leung, Vincent Lam Ngo-hin and Lee Nok-man.

The latter three were acquitted by the jury, but Leung still needed to return to prison to complete the sentence of his other rioting charge.

The Department of Justice originally laid seven charges against Yung: the jury convicted him of three, cleared him of another three, and failed to arrive at a valid verdict for one.

Edward Leung
Edward Leung. File Photo: Citizen News.

Prosecutors confirmed to the court on Thursday that it would not apply for a retrial for Yung’s last remaining charge, which was for unlawful assembly.

Lawyers for Yung and Yuen did not answer any questions on their way out.

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.