Five former Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) students have each been sentenced to close to five years in prison after they were convicted of rioting at the institution’s campus in 2019.

Chinese University of Hong Kong Police
Protesters take cover during clashes with police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), in Hong Kong on November 12, 2019. Photo: HKU Campus TV.

Handing down the sentences on Tuesday, Deputy District Court Judge Kathie Cheung said she agreed with the prosecution that the CUHK clashes were akin to a “war zone.”

Four men – Lau Chun-yuk, Ko Chi-pan, Chan Lik-sik and Hui Yi-Chuen – received prison terms of four years and nine months, while one woman – Foo Hoi-ching – was sentenced to four years and 11 months in jail.

The five were convicted earlier in September of participating in a riot on November 1 1, 2019 at CUHK near its No. 2 Bridge – an overpass at the edge of the campus in Sha Tin, overlooking the Tolo Highway and MTR tracks.

That day, protesters and students attempted to paralyse the major expressway by occupying the overpass and throwing objects to obstruct traffic below as part of the 2019 city-wide anti-China extradition bill demonstrations. Intense clashes continued into the night as police seized the bridge firing tear gas and projectiles, whilst protesters hurled bricks and petrol bombs.

West Kowloon Magistrates Courts
West Kowloon Magistrates Courts. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Aged between 20 and 23, the five defendants were convicted of one count of rioting and one count of using face covering during an illegal assembly. Two of the defendants were also convicted of possession of offensive weapons or tools for unlawful purposes.

Cheung said that, even though there was no evidence the five convicted had leadership roles during the riot, liability attached to rioting depended not only on individual behaviour, but also on that of a group. The court must give those who violated the law “a wake up call” or society will pay a heavy price for it, HK01 reported the judge as saying.

No remorse

Foo, the female defendant, who had no legal representative, said during her own mitigation submission that she would not ask for leniency and compassion from the judge. She said she disagreed with the law and felt no remorse about her actions, according to Stand News. She welcomed the court to “do as it pleases” if it believes a heavy sentence could make her reflect or feel regret.

Meanwhile, Lau’s lawyer said the former CUHK student regrets his actions and hopes to attend a culinary school in France after serving time. The lawyer for another defendant, Chan, said the ex-student was diagnosed with severe depression following the protests, forcing him to drop out of university despite his stellar academic performance.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng

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.