A Telegram channel administrator has been jailed for just under five years for publishing or forwarding messages inciting others to use violence and to obstruct the operation of the MTR during the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest.

File Photo: Ross Richardson.

The defendant, Siu Cheung-lung, 33, was accused of operating a public Telegram channel, where he posted close to 1,200 messages that incited others to use “fire magic” – a euphemism for throwing petrol bombs – and “pouring acid on blue ribbons,” referring to people who hold pro-government views.

He admitted to nine incitement charges relating to violence, arson, assault with intent, rioting, administering poison with intent to injure and committing nuisance in public, local media reported.

Handing down the verdict on Monday, District Court judge Anthony Kwok said the defendant had been “adding fuel to the fire” by calling on others to head to the conflict at Chinese University of Hong Kong and to produce explosives there.

Protesters clash with riot police on CUHK campus. File Photo: Stand News.

Siu stoked hatred and deepened social divisions by encouraging subscribers to attack police officers or people with pro-government views using metal rods and acid, the judge said. His calls to damage MTR cables on days when protest groups were calling on people to disrupt the city’s transportation system during the 2019 protests not only infringed upon the rights of others, it may also have caused trains to derail and threatened the physical safety of others, he added.

Protests erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into the police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

20,000 subscribers

In mitigation, Siu’s defence counsel said he had “became lost and fell into a craze in his obsessive pursuit for justice.” He asked the judge to reduce his sentence by a third by considering Siu’s guilty plea and his promise to reflect on his crimes, Headline Daily newspaper reported.

With over 20,000 subscribers, Kwok said the channel was influential and may easily sway other young people with similar views to the defendant. In order to send a strong deterrent message, the 4 years and 10 months sentence, was required, the judge said.

“If you tested the law for what you believed to be justice, then you must bear the consequences of the law,” the judge said, and urged the defendant to live up to expectations and support from his family.

60-year-old defendant Choi Yik-man.

Separately, last Thursday Choi Yik-man, 60, was jailed for seven months over Facebook comments inciting others to assault police officers. He was accused of posting a message to the social media platform last January after four officers were assaulted during a demonstration in Central that called for legislative reforms.

The message read: “Today several [police officers] were hit on the head, even though their heads were covered in blood but their skulls did not crack. It’s just superficial injury.”

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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.