A Hong Kong court has jailed nine protesters for up to four years and four months, after they were convicted of rioting in one of the city’s main shopping districts during the 2019 anti-extradition bill unrest.
District Judge Lily Wong on Friday sentenced nine defendants – aged between 17 and 30 – for rioting in Tsim Sha Tsui on August 11, 2019. One of the defendants, 25-year-old Law Hon-ming, was also found guilty of possessing ammunition without a license after he was found with nine used tear gas rounds on his person.
On that day, up to thousand protesters gathered illegally around Austin Road and Humphreys Avenue, where they blocked roads and the entrance of the Tsim Sha Tsui Division Police Station, hurled petrol bombs and other objects, shouted insults at the police and shone laser pointers at the police station, the judge said.
When handing down the sentences, Wong said the seriousness of the offence committed should not be determined solely by the defendants’ actions, but also how they “assisted” the behaviour of the rioting group. The accused in the case “worked together” with other protesters to resist police officers, she said.
The defendants “came prepared” when they took part in the illicit gathering, Wong said, pointing to their all-black attire. They also brought protest gear, the judge said, including face masks, respirators and filters, as well as a separate set of clothes which the court said was for them to change into after joining the illegal gathering.
“[This gear] made them more bold, allowing them to take part in the riot more presumptuously,” Wong said.
The scope of the riot was “not small” and it caused major public nuisance, the judge said. Some protesters threw tear gas rounds back at the police, an act Wong described as showing they “had no regard for law and order.” What made the current case serious was the behaviour of the protesters which amounted to “attacking the rule of law,” she added.
“It was only by luck that no one else got injured,” the judge said, citing a police officer who suffered burns after he was hit by a petrol bomb.
The judge described defendants Kate Lee, 30, and Nip Ka-po, 27, as playing a more “proactive role” in the riot than the other accused, saying the two stayed at the scene for a relatively longer period.
The starting point of their sentence was four years and eight months, the heaviest among all defendants, but the pair received a discount for pleading guilty to the rioting charge. Nip was order to serve 42 months behind bars, while Lee’s prison term was further reduced to 40 months, after Wong gave the defendant a discretionary discount for her charity work.
Defendants Liu Wai-ming, 25, Chong Ka-ho, 27, Wong Chin-po, 24, Lo Hau-Shing, 21, and Poon Koon-hung, 28, received four years and two months of jail time. The judge said they were all adults when they committed the offence and thus sentencing them to time behind bars was “the only option.” They did not receive any sentencing discounts as they pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The court did not accept other mitigation reasons, including the impact of a jail sentence on the defendants’ families. Wong said the accused should have considered the consequences of their action before committing the offence.
Wong previously rejected a request from Lo’s lawyer, who asked the court to seek a report to consider whether the defendant was suitable for sentencing to a detention centre. The judge said the alternative punishment could not reflect the seriousness of the offence.
Law, who was convicted of two charges, received four years and four months of jail time, the longest among the group. The judge accepted the defence’s suggestion and sentenced the only minor defendant – who was 14 at the time of the offence – to a training centre, where he would spend at least six months receiving rehabilitation.
Social worker Siu Ching-hei was the only defendant who was acquitted of the riot change in July. The case originally involved another defendant Law Lok-man, but the prosecution revealed in January that he already left Hong Kong and would not attend hearings linked to the case.
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