A Hong Kong man convicted for stabbing pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho in November 2019 has lost his bid to challenge his nine-year jail sentence, after the city’s appeal court ruled that the case was “not reasonably arguable.”

Justice Maggie Poon of the Court of Appeal on Wednesday refused to grant Tung Pak-fai a leave to appeal against his sentence. Tung was jailed for nine years last September after admitting to wounding politician Ho with intent to do grievous bodily harm on November 6, 2019.

High Court
High Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

On that day, Ho, then a Tuen Mun district councillor, was campaigning for re-election ahead of the District Council polls. Tung was said to have approached the pro-establishment figure and pretended to be a supporter before pulling out a 20-centimetre-long knife from his bag and stabbing Ho.

Tung originally faced one count of attempted murder, but he denied the charge. He then pleaded guilty to the alternative charge of wounding with intent, and a separate count of wounding.

Representing Tung, barrister David Ma argued that trial judge Esther Toh should not have taken 12 years as the starting point of Tung’s penalty. Ho, who sustained a two-centimetre chest wound, did not suffer from severe injuries and saw “very minimal” psychological impact following the attack, the lawyer said.

It would be “unfair” to his client if he was sentenced solely based on his intent, Ma told justice Poon, while the degree of injury and psychological impact on the victim were two important factors that “one should not lose sight of.”

“Given the state of the injury and psychological impact, this case does not warrant the top of the usual sentencing range for the [wounding] charge,” Ma said, referring to jail terms that ranged between three to 12 years in most wounding cases.

CE Election 2022 Junius Ho
Lawmaker Junius Ho. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Ma also told the court that there was a distinction between the wounding and attempted murder, which Tung was originally charged with. But Poon said both charges share the same intent of causing grievous bodily harm.

Prosecutor Crystal Chan, on the other hand, backed the jail term meted out by judge Toh. She said Tung had shown “a lot of premeditation” and “meticulous” planning, as demonstrated by his multiple visits to the scene before the attack. Additionally, Tung had armed himself with two knives, which was proof that he was “determined,” the prosecutor said.

“There was no provocation from Mr Ho, he was just doing a legitimate business… the applicant did not just commit the offence on the spur of the moment,” the prosecutor said.

junius ho
Lawmaker Junius Ho photographed on November 6, 2019 after the attack. Photo: Mina Chan.

Chan asked the court to take into account the background of the attack, which took place when the city was rocked by violent protests sparked off by a proposed amendment to its extradition bill. Tung carried out the attack in the morning during rush hour, which could have generated fear and provoked others, especially people with opposing political stances, she said.

Justice Poon interjected and said the social unrest was not a factor pointed out by Toh in her sentencing decision.

The prosecutor then played video clips of the stabbing, in which Tung was heard accusing lawmaker Ho of being involved in the mob attacks in Yuen Long on July 21, 2019. The storming of the Yuen Long MTR station by more than 100 rod-wielding men left dozens injured, including commuters, journalists and former pro-democracy legislator Lam Cheuk-ting.

After hearing submissions from Ma and Chan, the appeal judge ruled that Tung did not have a reasonably arguable case against the nine-year prison term handed down by Toh. She said he had the right to take the case to the Court of Final Appeal.

A written judgement will be handed down in six months’ time, Poon said.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.