Hong Kong riot police descended upon a court on Monday after the justice department was forced to drop charges against five defendants over a spelling error. The five, who were facing charges related to the recent pro-democracy protests, were re-arrested at Eastern Magistrates’ Court.

The arrestees – aged between 19 and 24 – were charged with possessing explosive substances, including 59 petrol bombs and 29 half-finished petrol bombs, found in a flat in Top View Mansion in Wan Chai. Three attended a hearing at court on Monday while two remained hospitalised.

Eastern Law Courts Building
Riot police inside the Eastern Law Courts Building. Photo: Stand News.

However, on the consent to prosecute document, the name of a defendant Yau Kin-wai was wrongly written in English as “Yau Kai-fai.” The term “custody” was also missing from the official charge of “possession or custody or under his control” of the explosives, according to Ming Pao.

Barrister Douglas Kwok, who represented the defendants, challenged the legitimacy of the document and urged for his clients’ release.

The five people’s charges were dropped after Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai said the hearing could not continue even if the document were to be amended.

After the three were released from court, more than 100 riot police in 10 police vans arrived outside the court. Some officers entered the court to re-arrest the trio.

Eastern Law Courts Building
Eastern Law Courts Building. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

Four out of the five arrestees appeared at a hearing on Tuesday before Chainrai. The other person remained in hospital.

The defence argued that the arrests inside court premises without Chainrai’s approval constituted contempt of court, RTHK reported.

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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.