Kok Tsz-lun, one of the 12 Hong Kong democracy activists who was detained in mainland China, will plead guilty to rioting.

In a plea bargain, the 19-year-old University of Hong Kong (HKU) student agreed to plead guilty to rioting in exchange for leaving two other charges on court file, his lawyer said in the District Court on Thursday.

District Court. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

District Judge Kwok Wai-kin then adjourned his case at the defence’s request to April 4, when another 12 defendants will be tried for the same rioting charge. Meanwhile, Kok will remain in custody.

Kok was charged with participating in a riot during a Yau Ma Tei protest on November 18, 2019, as well as possessing a pair of pliers “with intent to use for unlawful purposes.” The protest happened close to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which was under siege at the time as thousands of young protesters, many under 18, barricaded themselves within the university’s walls surrounded by police at all exits.

The prosecution later also accused him of “having an offensive weapon at public meetings or processions” as he was in possession of a laser pointer “without reasonable excuse” on November 19, 2019.

Kok was one of 12 Hongkongers caught by Chinese marine police in August 2020 when fleeing Hong Kong for Taiwan by boat. A mainland Chinese court sentenced Kok and nine others to between seven months and three years in jail.

A banner in the Chinese University of Hong Kong calling for support to save the 12 Hongkongers detained in China. Photo: Studio Incendo.

The remaining two were transferred back to Hong Kong without charge in 2020 as they were under 18 years old when they were caught.

Kok and seven others were released from jail in mainland China and returned to their home city on March 22, 2021. There have since been put in custody by Hong Kong authorities.

On April 28, Hong Kong police’s National Security Department added a charge of “perverting the course of justice” for the nine who had returned.

The nine, including Kok, will appear in court on July 14 next year in connection with the offence.

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.” 

Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.