The Department of Justice (DOJ) has confirmed it has appealed against the acquittal of seven people accused of rioting during a pro-democracy protest in Wan Chai last year.

The department said Monday it would also appeal against the court’s decision to withdraw charges against an eighth defendant — social worker Jackie Chen — who was arrested with the seven last August. Chen’s charges were dropped in September due to a lack of prima facie evidence.

august 31 may james china extradition best of
Photo: May James/HKFP.

District Judge Sham Siu-man found the other seven not guilty in late October, citing the prosecution’s failure to produce evidence of what they had been doing before their arrest.

Sham said in his judgment that the court should not “casually regard those dressed in black as participants of riots or unlawful assembly,” adding that to do so “is in itself a dangerous approach by which innocent people could be wronged.”

Rioting is punishable by a maximum ten-year jail sentence.

In a statement issued to Sham, the DoJ said the district judge had failed to “properly, adequately and fully consider and analyse the whole of the evidence,” according to CitizenNews.

‘Groundless pursuit’

Chen criticised the DoJ’s decision to appeal. “This move of groundless pursuit of the case only makes Hongkongers distrustful of the DoJ,” said a statement on her Facebook page.

Department of Justice
Department of Justice. Photo: GovHK.

She also expressed concern the appeal would place “unnecessary pressure” on her seven co-defendants, who are aged between 20-27.

Chen was a volunteer social worker during last year’s protests, monitoring police behaviour and liaising between protesters and police.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.