A Hong Kong court has convicted two men of taking part in an unlawful assembly in a residential district in August 2019 during the extradition bill protests. But their co-defendant was cleared of the charge after a magistrate ruled the prosecution had failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.

Tse Tin-ho, Ho Yan-kit and Mang Tsz-fung appeared before Magistrate Leung Ka-kie at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on Friday, after the trio was put on trial over an unlawful assembly near Tai Koo MTR station on August 11, 2019.

Eastern Magistrates' Courts
Eastern Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The three were said to have taken part in an illicit gathering on Kornhill Road in Sai Wan Ho when around 100 to 200 protesters congregated to block nearby roads that day. Some shone laser pointers at the police, while others chanted “black cops” and hurled objects at police vehicles, prosecutors said. Tse, Ho and Mang were arrested at the scene.

When handing down the verdict, Leung ruled that Tse and Ho were dressed like and carrying the equipment of protesters. Tse was said to have worn black “from head to toe” and had donned a black helmet and a respirator. The officer who arrested Tse said he saw the defendant standing in the front row of a group of protesters, which the magistrate cited as proof that he was not a passer-by or a bystander.

Leung also cited the testimony of an officer who intercepted Tse on the day, saying the defendant did not slow down or stop even after the officer declared that he was a policeman and asked Tse not to run away. The accused was trying to flee the scene because he understood his behaviour was unlawful, the court concluded.

Ho, on the other hand, was said to have had a helmet, gloves, umbrella and other protest-related gear in his possession. It was impossible for the defendant to be unaware of an illegal assembly, the magistrate said, adding all circumstantial evidence suggested that the 21-year-old participated in the unlawful assembly.

tai koo august 11 china extradition
Riot police photographed outside the Tai Koo MTR station on August 11, 2019. Photo: May James/HKFP.

The court acquitted Mang after police gave conflicting testimony regarding his attire. The arresting officer had earlier been unable to identify the defendant in court, while another officer said Mang wore a black helmet on the day, which did not match the yellow helmet seized on the day of the arrest. The prosecutors did not present enough evidence to prove the allegation against Mang beyond reasonable doubt, Leung ruled.

But the court also cast doubt on Mang’s testimony, in which he said he was on his way to meet his father’s friend to obtain some medication and was subdued when he passed by the protest site. The explanation was “suspicious” as there was no urgency in obtaining the medicine, Leung said.

The case was adjourned to October 14 for Tse and Ho to face sentencing.

Two more defendants in the case have jailed for six months after pleading guilty to the charge.

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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.