A Hong Kong court has found eight people guilty of rioting on Monday. They were arrested in areas of Tsim Sha Tsui in the early hours of November 19, 2019, when the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) was occupied by pro-democracy protesters and blockaded by police.

Clashes between police and protesters during the 2019 PolyU siege. File photo: May James.

Ho ho-shan, Yeung Shuk-chun, Hui Cheuk-ling, Leung Chin-wing, Cheung Kai-hang, Lee Chun-hin, Pang Siu-hin and Ho Kwok-tung appeared in front of Judge Clement Lee at the District Court on Monday morning. Lee ruled that all eight defendants were guilty of rioting, with Ho Kwok-tung also found guilty of “possessing things with intent to destroy or damage property.”

The defendants were arrested while hiding in areas on Hau Fook Street, Tsim Sha Tsui at around 3 a.m. on November 19, 2019, the court heard. Lee Chun-hin, Pang and Ho Kwok-tung were apprehended by officers in alleyways, Ho ho shan, Yeung and Hui were arrested on the staircase of an old tenement building, while Leung and Cheung were found on the building’s rooftop.

The judge ruled that all eight had intended either to participate in a riot or an event that undermined social security.

Judge Lee said the environmental evidence in this case was closely linked. After a blockade was set up by the police around PolyU on November 17 that year, calls emerged online to rescue those trapped within the barricade. Riots were happening on the night of November 18, the judge said, with the riot in question occurring at around 2 a.m. the following morning.

The District Court in Wan Chai. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

At around 3:45 a.m., the judge said police started to surround and arrests people near the alleyways of Hau Fook Street.

Referring to the five defendants apprehended at the tenement building, judge Lee said it was impossible for them to simply “pass by” the location. He added that there was a large amount of protest equipment found in the stairwell, which was “clearly left by protesters in a hurry, as they were fleeing upward.”

The judge said a “normal, mentally mature and innocent bystander” would have immediately left and ensured a division between them and the protesters, rather than following them.

“Frankly speaking, to an innocent bystander who faces police officers chasing down rioters and rioters who are blocking roads and detonating petrol bombs, who would be more scary?” judge Lee asked. “Only those with the intention to take part in a riot” would stay close to the protesters, Lee said.

District Judge Clement Lee. File photo: Judiciary.

The judge also said that the objects found on the defendants proved they were not simply bystanders. Ho ho-shan was wearing a mask even though there was no Covid-19 pandemic or mask mandate; Yeung was carrying a pair of filters for a respirator mask, 11 bottles of saline solution, and two masks; Hui had a first-aid kit, four bottles of saline solution, a pair of gloves and a black mask; Leung was wearing a dark grey mask, a black scarf, black sleeves, a black backpack and a pair of grey gloves found which bore traces of highly flammable organic solutions; and Cheung was wearing a cap, a scarf, a backpack and black sleeves, as well as a pair of goggles and a gas mask.

Meanwhile, Lee Chun-hin was arrested after being stopped and searched by officers on Hau Fook Street. He was carrying a lighter but did not have cigarettes and wore a glove with a small amount of highly flammable solution on it, which the judge said proved he had handled petrol bombs or assisted others in doing so.

As for Pang, who was also arrested after a stop-and-search process, judge Lee said camera footage showed that he had been monitoring the movement of officers with a telescope. As he was also found to be carrying a black mask and two bottles of saline solution in his pocket, the judge ruled that the “only reasonable inference” was that Pang had intended to take part in the riot and stayed at the scene to amplify the morale of the rioters.

The last defendant, Ho Kwok-tung, was found to have ignited a trolley with others in an alley. When running away with those people to Hau Fook Street, the defendant suddenly turned back towards the chasing officers, and was thereby apprehended.

Protesters during the PolyU siege in 2019. File photo: Benjamin Yuen/United Social Press.

The police also found a message Ho sent at 11:39 p.m. on November 18 on his phone that read “I have many friends in PolyU. I don’t want to sit at home and watch them waiting to be arrested. If so, I will live the rest of my life in shame. Rest assured, I will be back safely, and dine with the family one day.”

Based on the message, as well as the gear worn by Ho Kwok-tung when he was arrested – including a yellow helmet, goggles and a gas mask – the judge said he had a “passion” for rescuing those inside PolyU. The judge ruled that he had not only intentionally stayed at the scene of the riot, but had also participated in acts that undermined social security by intending to take part in the riot.

As the police had also found a hammer, two pair of pliers, a saw, a lighter and a can of paint on him, the judge ruled that he was guilty of possessing objects with intent to destroy or damage property, too.


The legal representatives of the eight defendants all asked the judge to set the starting point of sentencing to 39 months during Monday afternoon’s mitigation hearing.

The lawyers said all eight had good prior conduct as they did not have criminal records, apart from Lee Chun-hin, who had been summoned to court over a fine. They expressed hope that the judge would give sentencing discounts, since the defendants had accepted most of the case details suggested by the prosecution and thus not wasted the court’s time.

The lawyers of Ho ho-shan, Yeung and Hui asked the judge to consider that there was no evidence to suggest that their clients possessed illegal items or offensive weapons during the incident. Meanwhile, Leung and Lee Chun-hin’s barrister said they hoped the court would only sentence the duo for few months more than other defendants, despite the traces of flammable chemicals found on their gloves.

The judge ordered the defence lawyers to submit written mitigations by next Monday. The court is scheduled to handle the defendants’ further mitigation and sentencing on October 22.

A plea deal

Li Cheong Yuen, a co-defendant of the eight, also appeared in the courtroom on Monday morning. According to his lawyer, the defendant had earlier reached a plea agreement with the prosecution.

By pleading guilty to the rioting charge, the rest of Li’s charges – possessing things with intent to destroy or damage property and arson with intent – would be kept on file.

Protesters near the PolyU area in 2019, when the campus was under police siege. File photo: May James.

Li’s lawyer urged the judge to sentence the defendant with a starting point at 45 or 46 months in prison, taking reference from an earlier sentence handed down by Lee to co-defendant who also pleaded guilty.

In that case, the judge set the sentence starting point at 42 months, but in the end sent the defendant to a training centre after taking their age – 16 at the time of arrest – into account.

The defence lawyer said the situation and background of Li’s case was similar, except that Li had thrown objects towards the chasing officers before he was arrested. However, Li’s lawyer said the defendant acted out of anxiety instead of intention to wound, and that none of the officers had been injured.

Li was remorseful, his lawyer added, and his current employer had promised to re-hire him if he could come out of jail early.

Li will be sentenced with his eight co-defendants on October 22.

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Peter Lee

Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.