A Hong Kong court has found three people aged 21 to 36 guilty of rioting outside the Central Government Offices (CGO) in September 2019. The trio appeared before District Judge Stanley Chan at District Court on Tuesday afternoon.

District Court
Wan Chai Law Courts Building. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Chan found the trio guilty of rioting on September 29, 2019, when hundreds of protesters surrounded the CGO in Admiralty and clashed with the police.

In his written judgement, Chan said that the situation was “startling” as “rioters hurled petrol bombs and bricks at the Central Government Offices and even used slingshots to launch hard objects.”

He added that the rioters were “organised and coordinated” and the firing of water cannon by the police did “not achieve the expected outcome” in terms of “efficiency” and “range.”

All three defendants were arrested outside the CGO on Harcourt Road, one of whom was seen throwing a brick towards the government complex, according to police witnesses. The defendants’ legal representatives argued that there was no surveillance camera footage proving what the defendants did and why they were arrested.

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A protester was apprehended by police during the protest on September 29, 2019. File photo: May James/HKFP

Chan ruled that whether the situation was caught on surveillance cameras “does not mean that the officers involved were making up stories.”

He said the absence of recordings did not mean that the arrests did not happen, and none of the defendants denied that they were caught near the scene.

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 police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

Protective gear

The judge said he did not believe that the three were “passers-by” or “bystanders” based on their possessions.

Two of the defendants were carrying goggles, gloves, gas masks and helmets, and the other had a laser pointer and 42 black masks, when they were apprehended by police.

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Clashes between protesters and police on September 29, 2019. File photo: May James/HKFP.

Chan said he did not believe that the three “suddenly and passively” appeared at the protest as it was “already widely reported on internet and television news.”

“I don’t believe that a normal citizen – wearing dark-coloured clothing and carrying protective gear – would go to the scene as a bystander,” Chan said.

Based on “the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses, the environmental evidence at the time and the gears carried by the defendants,” Chan said there was “only one reasonable and unrebukable ruling.”

The trio were remanded in custody ahead of their sentencing on May 24.

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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.