A Hong Kong court has jailed two women for 11 months each over an unlawful assembly in Tsuen Wan during the height of the anti-extradition protests more than three years ago, with both prosecution and defence lawyers noting long delays in bringing the case to justice.

Magistrate Li Chi-ho passed the sentences on Foo Hoi-ching and Kwok Tsz-ching at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday, after they were convicted of taking part in the assembly on Yeung Uk Road in Tsuen Wan on August 25, 2019. He said he took the judicial delays into account when assessing the sentence.

Protesters photographed outside the Yeung Uk Road Municipal Services Building in Tsuen Wan on August 25, 2019. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Foo, who is already serving nearly five years in a separate protest case, saw eight months added to her existing prison term.

That day marked the first time for Hong Kong police deployed water cannon against protesters during the unrest that erupted in June 2019. Officers also fired tear gas after violence broke out following a march that began in Kwai Chung, where demonstrators called on the authorities to respond to the “five demands” and condemned alleged police misconduct.

The court was also scheduled to sentence three other defendants, Ho Cheuk-hin, Cheung Ka-wing and Lee Yik-lun. But the trio was absent from Thursday’s hearing as they were under Covid-19 quarantine while in custody. They will face sentencing on October 19.

Ho was found guilty of assaulting a police officer in addition to the unlawful assembly charge, while Foo, who was said to have possessed a laser pointer and a can of spray paint, was also convicted of possessing an offensive weapon and possessing an article with intent to destroy or damage property.

During mitigation, Foo’s lawyer Brian Tsui said the case “did not involve serious violence” and there was no evidence to show that his client had used the laser pointer and spray paint.

Hong Kong police deploy water cannon against protesters on August 25, 2019. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Kwok’s representative Howard Tang submitted seven mitigation letters from the defendant’s former teachers and principals, friends and social workers, who described her as a well-mannered person who had made contributions to her school and society.

Tang highlighted a delay in judicial procedures, saying the defendants first appeared in court in September last year, more than two years after the offence was committed. Such a delay interrupted Kwok’s rehabilitation plan, the barrister said, as the special needs education teacher could not study a programme in the related field at the University of Hong Kong due to her conviction.

The prosecution, represented by external barrister Steven Kwan, admitted it took the Department of Justice more than a year to advise the police on what charges to bring against 10 defendants arrested in connection with the protest in Tsuen Wan.

Hong Kong protesters photographed in Tsuen Wan on August 25, 2019. Photo: May James/HKFP.

When handing down sentence, Li said there was no evidence that Foo and Kwok had hurled bricks or petrol bombs, and the case did not involve “extreme violence.” He said he also took into account the delay in prosecuting the defendants when deciding the penalty for the pair.

Considering Foo was already serving four years and 11 months for rioting in connection with the campus unrest at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the magistrate said eight months would be added to her existing jail time.

Kwok applied for a review of her conviction before Li and the hearing is set to be held on November 4.

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Kelly Ho

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.