Seven Hong Kong democrats have applied to lodge a final appeal against their conviction for violating Covid-19 social-distancing rules during a Labour Day protest in 2020.

The High Court heard the application from Kwok Wing-kin, Stanley Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan, and Mak Tak-ching of the Labour Party and the League of Social Democrats’ (LSD) Tsang “the Bull” Kin-shing, Raphael Wong, and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung on Friday.

High Court
The High Court. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The group, along with LSD’s Avery Ng, were convicted of violating Covid-19 group gathering limits by then-magistrate Cheang Kei-hong in March last year after participating in a Labour Day protest in 2020, when they formed two groups of four and marched to the government’s headquarters in Admiralty.

Cheang handed the group a 14-day prison term, with the sentence suspended for 18 months. Mak was also ordered to pay a HK$2,000 fine for refusing to show his ID card to police officers.

The case marked the first time a Hong Kong court handed down a sentence over breaches of Covid-19 social distancing regulations during a political demonstration.

The eight later appealed against the conviction to the High Court in July this year, but Judge Albert Wong upheld the magistrate’s ruling that they had shared a “common purpose” and that regardless of whether they had maintained a 1.5-metre distance – as required by Covid rules – the two groups had been close to each other.

On Friday, barrister Anson Wong, said that the Court of Final Appeal should decide on the interpretation of the definition of “gathering” under the ordinance.

Raphael Wong
Raphael Wong (left) of the League of Social Democrats outside the High Court on October 18, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Wong argued that whether the groups had maintained a 1.5 metre distance should be a pre-condition for conviction.

The barrister also said that the city’s top court should rule on whether there was any reasonable excuse in the case, and said that peaceful assembly should be deemed as one.

Another representative of the defendants, barrister Carter Chim, said that the group also applied to challenge the constitutionality of the restrictions, as the administration had made an “arbitrary distinction” between group gatherings with and without a common purpose.

At the time of the incident, no public gatherings of more than four people were allowed in Hong Kong.

The city has maintained one of the world’s strictest Covid-19 social-distancing regimes, with a 12-person group gathering limit still in place. Until recently, the use of a government contact-tracing mobile application was also compulsory.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.