A Hong Kong magistrate has issued arrest warrants for a trio who failed to attend a hearing on Tuesday for charges relating to a university siege that marked the height of the 2019 pro-democracy protests.

Along with 18 others, the three were charged with “perverting the course of justice” after they allegedly drove fleeing protesters away from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) on November 18, 2019.

Photo: Kevin Cheng/United Social Press.

In November 2019, violent clashes between protesters and police erupted at PolyU as student protesters called for a city-wide strike and class boycott during the city’s pro-democracy demonstrations. The confrontation lasted 12 days as police tried to enter the campus. Over 1,300 people have been arrested in connection with the siege.

Campus escape

The 21 defendants, aged between 17 and 41, were intercepted by police in Ho Man Tin in seven cars, the court was told. The group collectively face seven separate charges of “perverting the course of justice,” an offence which carries up to two years imprisonment and a HK$100,000 fine when before a magistrate.

Magistrate Victor So adjourned the case to June 21. The 18 defendants who attended Tuesday’s hearing were allowed bail but have been banned from leaving the city, according to Ming Pao. The group included secondary school students, construction workers, and financial service workers.

West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts
West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Video footage from the scene showed protesters abseiling down from a footbridge on ropes and being driven away by a line of waiting vehicles and motorcycles to avoid arrest by police who had encircled the campus.

The siege, which left the university campus ransacked and over 300 people in hospital, was the culmination of months of tension between protesters and police.

At least 317 people have since been charged with rioting in relation to the incident.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.