A Hong Kong court has shot down an appeal from two people convicted of unlawful assembly linked to a protest in 2019.

High Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

O Chun-wai and Chan Ho-yee appeared at High Court on Monday morning to appeal their conviction over their role in a protest in Wong Tai Sin on August 24, 2019.

The pair, both 21 at the time of the offence, were found guilty last year by judge Minnie Wat on charges of unlawful assembly. O, who was found to have a drug abuse problem, was sentenced to rehabilitation at a drug addiction treatment centre. Chan was handed five months in jail.

Both have already completed their sentences, The Witness reported.

National security judge Alex Lee. Photo: Judiciary.

Judge Alex Lee upheld the original conviction, ruling that considering the gear they had and the location, the duo came prepared to take part in an unlawful assembly.

Hong Kong saw large-scale protests starting in the summer of 2019 over a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China, where the courts system is criticised as opaque. The demonstrations morphed into a wider display of dissent against the Beijing and Hong Kong governments.

‘Well-equipped’ gear

Explaining his justification for supporting their conviction, judge Alex Lee said he did not accept the argument that O and Chan were only passing by the scene that day, given the gear and what they were wearing. They had dark-coloured face masks, first-aid kits, saline solution, protective googles and other items, the court heard.

Lee said one of them in particular was “well-equipped” with gear.

A protest in 2019. File photo: May James/HKFP.

The appellants, meanwhile, argued that the original unlawful assembly took place opposite Tropicana Gardens, a residential estate on Lung Cheung Road. However, the two were arrested some distance away outside Exit E of Wong Tai Sin MTR station.

The appellants also said that the judge should not deduce what the two were doing at the scene based on what they were wearing and the gear they had, InMedia reported.

In response, Lee asked: “If what they were wearing was similar to other protesters, why can’t that be part of the… evidence?”

A protest in 2019. File photo: May James/HKFP.

Around 10,250 arrests have been made in connection with the 2019 unrest. 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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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.