Two Hong Kong teenagers have been found not guilty of manslaughter over the death of an elderly man during a protest clash in 2019, but were ruled guilty on charges of rioting.

Kelvin Lau, 19, and Chan Yin-ting, 18, were handed down the verdict at High Court on Tuesday with an unanimous jury vote on the manslaughter charge.

High Court
The High Court. File photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

They were also found not guilty of wounding with intent. But the jury of seven ruled that the duo were guilty of rioting.

Lau was found not guilty of wounding by a six to one vote, and Chan by a five to two vote. The 19-year-old was found guilty of rioting by a five to two vote, and the 18-year-old by a six to one vote.

The two were initially accused of murdering 70-year-old cleaner Luo Chang-qing in Sheung Shui in November 2019.

But on June 27, Judge Esther Toh ruled that the charge should be lessened to manslaughter after considering the evidence provided by the prosecution. Both defendants had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The two, who have been on remand since their arrest in December 2019, will reappear in court on next Friday at 9:30 a.m. for sentencing.

The incident took place in the midst of months of protests and unrest sparked by a proposed amendment to the city’s extradition bill in June 2019. Clashes occasionally broke out between pro-democracy protesters and counter-protesters.

‘Joint enterprise’

Luo, an outsourced worker for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, died on November 14, 2019 after taking a blow to his head during a clash between protesters and counter-protesters in Sheung Shui.

sheung shui head injury november 13
Luo Chang-qing, 70, lying on the street after having received a blow to the head on November 13, 2019. File photo: internet.

The prosecution had earlier said in the closing statement that although neither defendants had dealt the strike that killed Luo, they should still be held liable for manslaughter because of the doctrine of “joint enterprise,” local media reported. The doctrine states that one can be jointly convicted of the crime of another if it is predicted that the other party was likely to commit that crime.

The two defendants were accused of being part of a black-clad group who started throwing bricks towards another group of people attempting to clear bricks from the road. The second group then hurled rocks back at those wearing black, the prosecution said.

Esther Toh
Esther Toh. File photo: Judiciary.

Prosecutor Juliana Chow said Lau and Chan should be able to foresee that throwing bricks could be lethal, while the defendants’ counsellors argued that the two did not throw bricks at all.

When guiding the jury on Monday, the judge, Toh, said the seven should determine whether the duo accused had been participating in the joint criminal enterprise.

Toh said a group of people can be convicted under the doctrine if they agree to act in different roles to carry out a criminal plan together, and that the agreement needs not to be verbal.

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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.