A Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) student has pleaded guilty to taking part in an unlawful assembly at a checkpoint outside the campus in January last year.

Cho Tak-hei, Owen Au, Leung Yat-hei, and Ian Leung appeared at the Sha Tin Magistrates’ Courts on Friday. Au was the former president of the CUHK students’ union. The group stands accused of participating in an illegal assembly on January 11, 2021.

Former student leader Owen Au leaving the Sha Tin Magistrates’ Courts on August 19, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Cho, 22, was the only defendant to plead guilty in front of Acting Principal Magistrate David Cheung. The remaining three pleaded not guilty to the charge.

CUHK implemented new restrictions on campus in November 2019, gradually increasing security measures to check the identity cards of students and teachers, and registered visitors’ information, as they arrived.

According to the case details read out in court, in January last year Cho was among a group of around 10 people, some of whom shouted “do not show them your identity cards” near the checkpoint at the campus entrance near Exit A of the University MTR station.

During the minute-long incident, eggs and white powder were thrown at the security guards, and Cho pushed over barricades. The 22-year-old denied throwing the powder, which later was found to be corn-starch.

The CUHK student later said that he was waiting for a signal to push over the barricades, and that he wanted to protest the school’s new security measures.

Mitigation

During mitigation, Cho’s lawyer submitted that the university student wanted to complete a master’s programme and become a journalist after graduating from his degree. The lawyer also submitted several letters from Cho’s father, professors, and secondary school teachers.

Sha Tin Law Courts Building. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The defendant wrote in his own mitigation letter that he “sincerely regretted” his actions, and he understood “there were better ways to express his views.”

After hearing the submissions, Cheung said that the offence was serious, but considering Cho’s age, the magistrate said he would have to obtain a detention centre report before considering what sentence to impose on Cho.

The magistrate adjourned Cho’s case to September 2 and told the remaining three defendants to return on September 22 for a pre-trial review.

Cho was remanded into custody, while Au, Leung Yat-hei, and Ian Leung had their bail extended, with the magistrate removing their curfew order.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.