A Hong Kong court has adjourned the date of handing down its verdict for eight people facing rioting charges after one defendant tested positive for Covid-19.

District Court
District Court. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The eight, aged 20 to 62, stand accused of taking part in riots in areas of Jordan near the campus of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), when the university was under siege in November 2019.

They also faced other charges including possessing offensive weapons. All of them had pleaded not guilty to their charges.

Seven defendants – Cheung Wing-sheung, Lam Chin-ching, Liu Hong-leung, Lee Ping-lok, Auman Yick, Chu Wai-hung, and Poon Wing-kit – appeared in front of Judge Ernest Lin at the District Court on Friday.

The absent defendant, Li Ka-vi, tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday and could not attend court sessions for at least two weeks, Li’s lawyer said.

Judge Ernest Lin then adjourned the date when he would hand down his verdict to September 21. “The problem is that [the defendant] has to be here, as there is a chance that he will be sentenced to jail.” Lin said.

november 17 polytechnic university polyu
Protesters stationed outside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University during the two-week-long campus siege in November, 2019. File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Two additional co-defendants – an 18-year-old student and a 23-year-old delivery worker – earlier pleaded guilty to rioting.

Lin sentenced the student to up to six months of service at a detention centre in May, local media reported.

The siege of PolyU happened during the height of the 2019 protests and unrest, when protesters and police clashed in a tense stand-off that lasted almost two weeks. Thousands of young protesters, some under 18, barricaded themselves within the university, which was surrounded by police. 

Unprecedented case

The judge also asked the lawyer representing Chu about the legal grounds of his arguments.

LIN Kam-hung, Ernest Michael 練錦鴻.JPG
District Judge Ernest Lin. File photo: Judiciary.

According to his lawyer, Chu was carrying a large amount of medical supplies and said he would provide first-aid services to all parties at the scene, including passers-by, people who allegedly took part in any riots, and law enforcement officers.

However, the lawyer said he could not find any example cases in common law jurisdictions that would define the neutrality and duty of a first-aider who was not a qualified nurse or doctor.

He asked Lin to consider the principles of common law – which respect morals and life – and make Chu’s case a test case regarding the stance and responsibility of those who volunteered to provide medical services to others but were not qualified to do so.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor said it was “absurd” for the defence lawyer to ask the court to consider “morals and principals he had created.”

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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.