A Hong Kong man accused of incitement to commit wounding over a WhatsApp message in 2019 has been found not guilty after the court said he was only expressing his feelings.

Fong Man-ho appeared at District Court on Friday afternoon following a hearing earlier this month.

District Court
District Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The court heard that the 43-year-old driver – who worked for the vice-chairperson of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party at the time – posted a message in a WhatsApp group on July 30, 2019, which read: “Will be jailed for 8 or 10 years anyway, [might as well] use a machete to chop those motherfucking black cops.”

Judge Douglas Yau said the message could be understood as meaning “using a knife to attack police,” and in the context of the social unrest at the time was sufficient to constitute an offence.

But Yau said the group in which the message was posted was for exchanging information about traffic updates, and was not an anti-government platform.

whatsapp telegram message icon apps
Instant messaging app icons. Photo: Ademay, via Unsplash.

Of the 2,000-odd messages in the group, only a few messages were directly related to protests. The rest were messages about how traffic might be affected by the unrest.

If the defendant did intend to incite others to assault police, he would have chosen a more radical platform, Yau added.

Acting out of impulse

Hong Kong saw major protests starting in the summer of 2019. The demonstrations were initially in opposition to a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China. The unrest grew into a wider protest against the Hong Kong and Beijing governments, as well as what demonstrators saw as an abuse of power by police.

Over 10,200 people were arrested during the months-long protests, 40 per cent of whom were students.

may james china extradition best of
File photo: May James.

The court also accepted Fong’s evidence that he was friendly with former police officers, and that he had just lost control of his emotions at the time.

Yau said there were people in society who supported the police, were against the police, and who had a neutral stance. “No matter which camp they were in, obviously one would feel angry and helpless while watching live news feeds,” he added.

During a hearing earlier this month, the defence argued that Fong’s message was an impulsive act with no element of conspiracy. The defence added that he was only hoping to vent his anger and sadness in relation to the social unrest.

Fong also said he had no hatred towards police.

The anti-extradition protests continued though to 2020, but halted as the Covid-19 epidemic began and Beijing’s national security law was imposed.

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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.