A Hong Kong court has jailed five people for up to four years and seven months for rioting near the government headquarters in September 2019 in the midst of the anti-extradition bill unrest. Two minor defendants were sentenced to a training centre.

Deputy District Judge Cheng Lim-chi on Monday handed down sentences for seven defendants aged between 17 and 33 after they were convicted of taking part in a riot near the Central Government Offices in Admiralty on September 29, 2019.

Protest scenes in Hong Kong on September 29, 2019. Photo: May James/HKFP

On that day, chaos erupted on Hong Kong Island as protesters staged an unauthorised “global anti-authoritarianism march” that coincided with rallies held in more than 40 countries. Police deployed water cannon, tear gas and pepper spray to crack down on demonstrators who hurled bricks and petrol bombs. Protesters also set fire to makeshift barricades and vandalised MTR exits.

The scale of the riot was “not small” and involved many participants, said Cheng when he meted out the penalties. Most protesters wore dark clothing and face coverings in a bid to conceal their identities and escape criminal liability, he said.

There was no evidence indicating that the defendants had played a leading role in the unapproved protest, the court ruled. They committed the offence out of “a wrong thought in the spur of the moment,” Cheng said.

Citing numerous rulings on similar rioting cases, the deputy district judge set 4.5 years as the starting point of jail sentences. An additional three months were added for defendants who threw objects at the government buildings, as Cheng said such behaviour amounted to using “concrete violence.”

Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

Tse Hiu-fung, 23, who denied the charge and was found guilty after trial, received the heaviest sentence of 55 months in jail. Another defendant Tsang Hin-ka, 27, who pleaded guilty during the trial stage, was jailed for 49 months.

Yau Sin-yu, who pleaded guilty after the pre-trial review and was said not to have used concrete violence, was handed 3.5 years in prison.

Wong Yuk-cheung and Fan Yu, who entered guilty pleas at an earlier stage, were given a larger reduction of jail time. Both were sentenced to 40 months of imprisonment.

Cheng ordered two defendants who were under 18 at the time of the offence to be detained at a training centre, an alternative to imprisonment for offenders aged 14 to 20. The minimum duration of detention is six months and the maximum is three years, subject to the detainees’ conduct.

The sentencing of defendant Lau Yin-sheung was adjourned to Friday as she was absent from Monday’s hearing after she was placed under Covid-19 quarantine.

As of the end of August, police had apprehended a total of 10,279 people in connection with the months-long pro-democracy unrest. The authorities have prosecuted at least 2,893 arrestees, including 517 aged under 18. Around 70 per cent of the defendants had completed their judicial proceedings.

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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.