Two Hong Kong students have pleaded not guilty to the charge of rioting over an Uyghur solidarity assembly held in December 2019.

Luk Ka-yu and Siu Tsz-fung, both 23, appeared in front of Deputy District Judge Jacky Ip at the District Court on Monday morning, local media reported.

District Court
District Court. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Siu pleaded guilty of assaulting a police officer while Luk pleaded guilty of aiding an offender. But both pleaded not guilty to rioting.

The incident was linked to an assembly in Central on December 22, 2019, where protesters had gathered to express support for Uyghurs in Xinjiang. International rights groups have estimated that at least a million from the Muslim minority have been detained in “re-education camps.”

According to the case details agreed by both the prosecution and the defence, 1,500-odd people gathered at around 5 p.m. that day – when a Chinese national flag at the nearby City Hall was taken down by people wearing black and with their faces covered.

In the process of retrieving the flag, police officers were surrounded by protesters who verbally abused them. Officers deployed pepper spray to disperse the crowd but to no effect.

Edinburgh Place assembly 22-12-2019
Hong Kong protesters held an Uyghur solidarity assembly on December 22, 2019. File photo: Studio Incendo, via Wikicommons.

Siu kicked an senior inspector from behind and was subsequently subdued by another officer. Luk then tried to pull Siu away from the police.

Thirty-odd protesters encircled the police and threw objects at them, with some chanting “beat the dogs and set the people free.” Officers responded with pepper spray and one pulled out his gun but did not fire.

In the end, Luk was arrested at the scene. Siu was later apprehended by the police at his home.

The argument

The prosecutor said the two defendants should be convicted of rioting based on their actions and the fact that they wore similar clothing to others at the scene.

IP Kai-leung, Jacky 葉啓亮.jpg
Deputy District Judge Jacky Ip. File photo: Judiciary.

But the defence disputed when and where the “riot” occurred.

Barrister Franco Kuan, who represented both defendants, said the incident only became a riot when other people attempted to free the pair from the police.

Kuan added that both Luk and Siu were “at a distance” from the fray.

Earlier in May, Leung Ka-wai, a co-defendant of the duo, pleaded guilty of taking part in a riot and assaulting police. He was sentenced to 2 years and 4 months in prison.

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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.