A Hong Kong woman has been jailed after she admitted inciting others to commit arson via a messaging app during the 2019 anti-extradition bill protests.

Waitress, Hui Pui-yee, was handed a three-year prison term by District Court Judge Frankie Yiu, according to local media reports. 26-year-old Hui had also pleaded guilty to committing a seditious act for which she was given a 20-month term. The two sentences will run concurrently.

district court
District Court. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

Hui had been accused of conspiring with others between August to November 2019 to incite users of the messaging app, Telegram, to damage property using fire. She was also said to have provoked others to use violence and disobey the law during citywide unrests that erupted in June 2019.

Police found 39 messages in a Telegram channel managed by Hui and others that were linked to arson, while people in the group made hate speech against the force, government officials and supporters of the government, local media said.

According to Stand News, the word “dog,” which was said to have the intention of insulting police officers and government officials, appeared 603 times in Hui’s Telegram channel. Another term “black cop” was mentioned 221 times, while phrases like “blue ribbon” – referring to pro-police and pro-government supporters – appeared 375 times.

"August 31, 2019" protest fire
Protest scenes from August 31, 2019. Photo: Studio Incendo.

Sentencing Hui, Yiu said arson was a serious crime, especially in Hong Kong which is densely populated. If a fire was caused, the consequences would be “difficult to imagine,” Yiu said, according to local media.

The judge said while there was no evidence to show Hui had proactively published the messages in question, as and administrator, she had the power to amend or delete postings.

In mitigation, Hui’s lawyer said his client came from a “tragic” family background, as her parents were separated and her mother suffers from mental illness, local media reported.

september 15 China extradition police protest causeway bay
Photo: Studio Incendo.

The defence said Hui also had mental issues, which affected her decision-making, adding that the 26-year-old “went astray” during the 2019 turmoil.

Hui’s sentencing on Tuesday marked the first Telegram channel administrator to be imprisoned over the 2019 protests. The instant messaging platform was commonly used by demonstrators during the months-long unrest, which often descended in violent clashes between police and pro-democracy protesters.

Some groups provided information about upcoming demonstrations and related publicity materials, while others shared information on police deployment during the protests.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.