Five people have been sentenced to up to four and a half years over rioting charges relating to a protest in Wong Tai Sin in 2019.

Handing down the sentences on Monday, Judge Ernest Lin said the defendants – aged 19 to 30 – had turned the district into a battlefield during the demonstration, which paralysed a major transport hub in Kowloon and, the judge said, brought fear to the society.

District Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

They were convicted last December of rioting and resisting a police officer on Lung Cheung Road in Wong Tai Sin on October 1, 2019. That day, which was the National Day public holiday, protests erupted across the city as demonstrators took to the streets to “mourn” the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Three defendants were jailed for between four years and three months to four years and six months, while the two younger defendants, aged 22 and 19, were sentenced to a detention centre and a training centre respectively, InMedia reported.

Hong Kong saw large-scale demonstrations starting in the summer of 2019, a response to a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China to stand trial.

A protest in Mong Kok on October 1, 2019. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Lin said, however, that the riot in Wong Tai Sin was not related to the extradition bill as it had already been suspended in June. Instead, protesters had used the occasion to “sacrifice other people’s freedoms for their own ideals,” the judge said.

One of the defendants, Ho Man-him, 27, said he did not take part in the riot and was only passing by that day. But Lin said a 32-centimetre bat was found on him and that he struggled during his arrest.

Mak Ho-wai, currently in his last year of an associate’s degree, had bandage tapes and other emergency first aid equipment but did not show that he had first aid qualification. The 24-year-old said he intended to meet a friend for lunch, but they did not end up meeting due to the transportation disruption, so he ended up staying behind to offer emergency care to those in need. Lin rejected his defence, saying Mak had showed no remorse.

Photo: Aidan Marzo/HKFP.

Both Ho and Mak were jailed for four years and six months.

Another defendant, Kwok Siu-kit, was said to have stepped on a police officer when he was being chased while climbing across a barrier. There was no evidence to suggest that he had acted violently, and the 30-year-old maintained that he had done nothing wrong.

Lin handed down a starting sentence of four years and six months, but reduced it by three months taking into account his health problems and the fact that he cared for his sick parents.

Meanwhile, Cheung Kai-cheong, 22, was judged to have a low chance of reoffending and was sentenced to a detention centre. Citing health reasons, Lin said the youngest defendant, Wan Tsz-lam, was not suited for a detention centre order, and was sentenced to a training centre instead. The 19-year-old is a first-year student at the University of Hong Kong.

Tai Tam Gap Detention Centre. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Around 10,250 arrests have been made in connection with the protests and unrest of 2019. The demonstrations eased in early 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak and Beijing’s national security law, which activists say has been used by police to crack down on the pro-democracy movement. Authorities, however, maintain that the legislation has restored stability to society.

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