Twelve individuals who were previously released after refusing bail conditions have been re-arrested and charged with rioting near Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in November 2019.

In two separate court cases, 15 people have been respectively acquitted of rioting and illegal assembly charges related to protests that took place on October 1 in 2019.

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The Poly U siege. File Photo: May James.

In the PolyU case, nine men and three women aged between 16 and 28 were arrested by police on Friday and were mentioned at the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court the same evening, Stand News reported. They were previously released while the police investigation continued.

In November 2019, protesters who attempted to block a cross-harbour tunnel clashed with police at the nearby PolyU in a violent, days-long stand-off that made headlines worldwide. Thousands of anti-extradition bill protesters, many under 18, barricaded themselves within the university’s walls for two weeks after it was surrounded by police on all sides. Most eventually surrendered or were arrested while attempting escape. A handful escaped by abseiling from a bridge or through underground sewers.

Rearrested and charged

The 12 stand accused of remaining inside the university and attempting to breakthrough police cordons near the campus on November 18. They allegedly retaliated against police tear gas with molotov cocktails and bricks, Ming Pao reported.

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File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Among those arrested, only one who claimed to be a first aid volunteer was granted bail, while the remaining 11 were taken into custody. The case will be transferred to the District Court and has been adjourned until March.

Six people in the group were also charged with another count of rioting near PolyU on November 17, 2019. Of the six, two were additionally charged with one count of possessing radio communications devices without a licence.

National Day protesters acquitted

In two other cases related to the National Day protests that occurred on October 1, 2019, fifteen individuals were acquitted of all charges on Friday.

In one case, police arrested five individuals at an apartment in Wan Chai rented through Airbnb, in the early morning of National Day two years ago. They found glass bottles and a white gas, while a sixth individual – whose name was similar to the tenant – was arrested later at another location.

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National Day protests on Hong Kong island. File Photo: Aidan Marzo/HKFP.

Aged between 17 and 25 years old, the group were charged with conspiring to riot and an alternative charge of illegal assembly. They were acquitted of all charges and were released by the District Court, Stand News reported.

In the ruling, a district judge said evidence presented could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that glass bottles, fabric strips and the white gas found at the apartment had been used to produce molotov cocktails, as no finished nor unfinished products were discovered. The court also could not conclude without doubt that the individuals had conspired to participate in the unrest that day, as they were arrested before they occurred.

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A protester was arrested on October 1, 2019. File Photo: Aidan Marzo/HKFP.

In another other case, nine individuals prosecuted for allegedly participating in an unauthorised protest in Wong Tai Sin – also on October 1, 2019 – were acquitted on Friday at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court.

The case initially had 11 suspects, but charges against two 17-year-olds were dropped by the prosecution earlier, while nine went to court. Of the nine, charges against eight were previously dismissed due to a lack of prima facie evidence.

The ninth suspect, a woman aged 29, was found wearing black and was in possession of a gas mask at the moment of arrest, but the magistrate presiding over the case concluded there were multiple protests occurring nearby at the time, and so it could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt that she was participating in the one at the location she was prosecuted over.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.