A 35-year-old man has been handed a suspended sentence by a Hong Kong court over two online posts he made during the 2019 protests, in which he referred to police as “bastards” and wished death upon them.

Edward Sung, a fitness coach, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to violating a court injunction that bans the posting and spreading of messages that incite violence on the internet. He was given a 21-day jail sentence suspended for 12 months.

High Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The injunction was issued by the High Court on October 31, 2019, as the city was rocked by months-long protests 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.

The order barred acts of “disseminating, circulating, publishing or re-publishing” online messages that encourage bodily injury to any person, or damage to any property. While the injunction singled out messaging app Telegram and online forum LIHKG – both of which were commonly used by supporters of the pro-democracy movement – it indicated that the ban applied beyond those platforms.

‘Cop-killing’ posts

According to local media, Sung shared a Facebook picture on November 11, 2019, of a police officer who shot a protester using a live round in Sai Wan Ho. In the post, Sung wrote “kill this bastard cop.”

The next day, he wrote another social media post that read: “must see black cops die.”

Riot police in Mong Kok. Photo: Tom Grundy.

In court, the defence argued that Sung did not have any political stance and that he was emotionally triggered by the news of a police officer shooting a protester during clashes in Sai Wan Ho.

His lawyer added that Sung himself was a victim of the months-long unrest as the protests had affected business at his fitness centre.

Sung said that he was not aware of the court injunction at the time, but the prosecution rejected the argument, saying that Sung’s browser history showed he regularly read the news and that his posts presented a risk to the police officer in question.

The defence pointed out that Sung deleted the social media posts after he was arrested and also apologised publicly, showing that he regretted his actions.

Court orders

During the 2019 protests, the Hong Kong government regularly resorted to court orders to try and curb the unrest. After protesters descended on the city’s airport for three consecutive days in August, forcing the cancelation of flights, the Airport Authority obtained an injunction to restrict non-travellers from entering the airport.

Photo: May James/HKFP.

In October 2019, the court granted an injunction to ban the disclosure of personal data belonging to officers and their extended families, a practice also known as “doxxing.”

In handing down the suspended sentence, Judge Russell Coleman said he took into account the fact that Sung had issued an online apology and that he was struggling financially at the time.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.