Seven men have been sentenced to between three-and-a-half to seven years behind bars, after they were convicted of rioting and wounding during the Yuen Long mob attacks that left 45 people injured in July 2019.
District Court Judge Eddie Yip on Thursday meted out prison terms to the defendants who were among over 100 rod-wielding men that stormed Yuen Long MTR station and attacked protesters, commuters, journalists and former legislator Lam Cheuk-ting on July 21, 2019.
The attack by white-clad men was one of the most controversial incidents during months of sometimes violent protests against an extradition bill. Police were accused of colluding with the attackers, some of whom were allegedly triad members, but insisted they were too stretched to respond swiftly on the night.
The charges the seven faced included rioting, wounding with intent and conspiracy to wound with intent.
- Wong Ying-kit received three years and six months in prison.
- Lam Koon-leung received four years and eight months in prison.
- Lam Kai-ming received four years and eight months in prison.
- Tang Wai-sum received seven years in prison.
- Ng Wai-nam received four years in prison.
- Tang Ying-bun received three years and nine months in prison.
- Choi Lap-ki received six years in prison.
All but Lam Koon-leung and Lam Kai-ming pleaded not guilty to their charges.
The first defendant in the case, Wong Chi-wing, was acquitted by Yip last month. But local media reported on Wednesday that the Department of Justice has filed an appeal against his acquittal.
In handing down the sentences, Yip said the use of violence in the metro station was “pre-meditated.” He said the commuters who were trapped inside the MTR carriage were put under a “false imprisonment,” adding that the assailants imposed “extrajudicial punishment” on the victims.
“D3 (Lam Koon-leung) and D4 (Lam Kai-ming) took turns to rush into the train compartments, waving the rods or throwing objects to attack the passengers therein indiscriminately, just as they had lost their minds,” Yip said.
Tang Wai-sum, who was handed the heaviest penalty among the group, was said to have played a “directing role.” He witnessed how other white-shirted people “persistently attacked” victims, even after some fell onto the ground.
Yip described the white-clad assailants as “self-formed armed forces” who “abused” the national flag by attaching mini-versions of it to bamboo sticks, which were used for beating people.
“With self-made ‘Defend Yuen Long, defend our home’ placards, [the white-clad people] declared Yuen Long had suffered as their home, and needed its own law enforcement, side-lining the police,” the judge said. “Hong Kong is a society of rule of law. These kind of arbitrary attacks… caused extreme panic among citizens. The court must impose deterrent sentences on the assailants.”
After sentences were passed, the courtroom was in an uproar as family and supporters of the defendants slammed them as “judicial injustice.”
A man was seen holding a Chinese flag in his hand, while people around him shouted profanities. Another man said that – since the defendants were given years-long sentences – former legislator Lam Cheuk-ting should be “executed by shooting.”
“The rule of law is dead!” an angry woman shouted in the courtroom.
Supporters gather at courthouse
Hong Kong marked the second anniversary of the incident on Wednesday, which saw a heavy police presence – with many officers wearing body armour and at least two police dogs deployed – around Yuen Long station. Only a handful of people showed up to remember the attacks.
Before the sentencing, several groups in support of the defendants chanted slogans and held placards outside the courthouse in Wan Chai. They backed the men and said they were only “defending their homes and country” and “Yuen Long people.” Some also put blame on ex-legislator Lam of the Democratic Party for allegedly stirring up conflicts on the day.
“Without Lam Cheuk-ting, Yuen Long would be peaceful,” some supporters chanted.
The incident was initially described as “shocking” by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, while then-chief secretary Matthew Cheung called the perpetrators “thugs.”
But the official account changed over a year, as the police force – which faced accusations of colluding with the assailants and responding slowly – characterised the event as a “gang fight” between white-shirted men and others dressed in black.
Former lawmaker Lam, who was beaten up by white-clad attackers, was later arrested and charged with rioting in connection with the incident.
More to follow.