A Hong Kong man has lost an appeal against his conviction and six-month jail sentence for resisting police officers at an anti-extradition protest in Tsim Sha Tsui mall on Christmas Eve in 2019.

December 24 mall police
Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Lo Chun-sing, then 21 years old, was found guilty of resisting three officers while being restrained at the Harbour City shopping mall after Lo allegedly threw a pamphlet from the third floor to the level below. The officers were injured in the process.

According to a judgement released on Thursday, Lo’s lawyer argued that the magistrate in the initial trial had erred in saying Lo was aware the people pinning him down were police officers. He said it was possible that Lo did not hear the officers identifying themselves because the mall was noisy or he that he mistook them for rioters or members of a triad group.

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

Lo’s lawyer also argued that Lo was acting in self-defence because police had used excessive force and that the magistrate had misunderstood Lo’s testimony.

Unlikely to mistake police as rioters

In rebutting those grounds, Justice Johnny Chan said Lo knew there was a protest in the mall and therefore must have been aware of the presence of police and the possibility of them making arrests.

“The appellant’s behaviour of wanting to leave immediately after throwing a pamphlet down onto the second floor showed that he thought of absconding. Judging by the environment at the time, it was not likely the appellant mistook the police as rioters or gang members,” Chan wrote in the judgement.

December 24 mall police
Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Chan also rejected Lo’s claim of self-defence, saying he had been resisting the moment he was subdued and was not reacting to what he claimed was excessive force from police. He also said Lo’s appeal reasoning had been based on the presumption that the police had beat him with their batons, but his testimony and those of the police officers in the trial were “completely different.” The magistrate in the end accepted the police testimony but rejected Lo’s statement.

“Whether the testimony of a witness was credible and reliable was decided by the magistrate based on facts. An appellate court will not easily intervene in the magistrate’s decision,” Chan said. “There was no issue of perverse, unreasonable or wrong citation of evidence, or missing out important evidence [by the magistrate].”

December 24 mall police
Photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

Lo’s testimony was not accepted by the lower court during his trial, when the magistrate said that Lo had given contradictory remarks in cross-examinations. Chan said the magistrate had detailed reasons for not taking Lo’s testimony and ruled that it had not been misunderstood by the magistrate.

Penalty not ‘too heavy’

Chan, in the judgement, also agreed with the lower court’s sentencing. He said Lo could not be considered an “extreme youth” as he was 21 at the time. Lo’s own injury was not a mitigation factor either, Chan added, as his resistance could have caused others to attack police officers in an attempt to save him.

Chan said the lower court had not erred in its ruling and the penalty was not “too heavy.”

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.” 

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Almond Li

Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.