A Telegram channel administrator in Hong Kong has been jailed for 6.5 years, after he was convicted of conspiring to incite others to commit arson, rioting and other crimes during the protests between 2019 and 2020.
Deputy District Judge Peter Hui sentenced computer technician Ng Man-ho on Thursday, a month after the 27-year-old, who ran a Telegram group called SUCK Channel, was found guilty of seven charges of conspiring to incite others to commit illegal acts during the 2019 extradition bill protests and subsequent months.
Ng, who had pleaded not guilty to all charges, had been detained for more than 20 months. His channel was said to have contained around 120 messages and photos that incited others to vandalise pro-government shops and commit criminal damage targeting police stations.
The group also hosted discussions on committing arson, Judge Hui said, including setting roadblocks on fire, hurling petrol bombs at police stations and teaching people to make such weapons. The conversation linked to arson went on for two to three months, Hui said.
The public channel had more than 109,000 subscribers, Judge Hui said. Ng had the power to remove or amend the messages in the channel, but he “allowed them to exist.”
“[The defendant] could not shift his criminal liability,” Hui said.
The court said the defendant had also incited people to commit public nuisance, with messages calling on them to take part in rallies and demonstrations including at Hong Kong International Airport, to block roads and to paralyse the public transportation system. Various forms of protest promoted on the messaging platform included general strikes, lunchtime protests and silent sit-ins.
Judge Hui described Ng as inciting others to “commit a massacre” with three posts teaching people to make “toxic chlorine gas bombs,” target police stations, police quarters and the city’s metro stations. This offence was “rather serious,” the court said.
Other crimes that the SUCK Channel incited under Ng’s watch included using corrosive chemicals to make explosives and causing grievous bodily harm with intent. The court also found Ng responsible for calling on people to assist protesters who clashed violently with police at several universities in November 2019.
Hui said the time period and nature of some offences “overlapped” and thus their prison terms could be served concurrently. The judge ordered Ng to be jailed for a total of six years and six months.
As of Thursday, the SUCK Channel had 34,146 subscribers, with only one message dated August 28, 2020. It was an announcement stating that police had removed all posts on the channel because its content “contravenes the laws of Hong Kong.”
‘Ban’ on Telegram
On Tuesday, some local media outlets included Sing Tao Daily cited sources as saying the Hong Kong government was considering restricting access to Telegram. Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Ada Chung told to the Legislative Council on Monday that government officials, police and lawmakers remain the targets of “doxxing” despite a privacy law amendment last year that criminalised the malicious disclosure of personal information.
According to media reports, the privacy watchdog was considering “blacklisting” some online platforms that have repeatedly posted doxxing information, with sources saying most messages were shared on Telegram.
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