Four Hongkongers have been convicted of taking part in a riot during a protest in September 2019. The judge said they had encouraged fellow protesters by staying at the scene wearing similar clothing with the rest.
Tang Chung-shing, 20, Lam Tsui-man, 32, Lau Yin-chiu, 36, and Lam Chi-ho, 30, appeared in front of District Judge Ernest Lin on Tuesday morning.
They were convicted of participating in a riot with others on Queensway, a major road in Admiralty, on September 29, 2019, when pro-democracy protesters had called for an “anti-totalitarianism” demonstration and violent clashes broke out between protesters and police.
According to the judgement, a large number of protesters had marched from Causeway Bay to the Central Government Offices in Admiralty that day without prior police authorisation.
At around 4 p.m. in the afternoon, some 500 demonstrators hurled petrol bombs, bricks and other objects at the government complex. Officers then began dispersing the crowd with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.
The four defendants were arrested in the police operation on Queensway.
While there was no evidence to suggest how long the defendants had been at the scene, Lin said those who were on Queensway during the incident “must have knowingly chosen to enter the area.”
The judge said all transport to the area had been halted at the time, and the only way to reach Admiralty was by walking from Wan Chai or Central. As the police had already issued warnings and used tear gas, “it would be impossible for any normal person at the scene not to know that violent clashes were occurring in the area.”
The court had heard from the defence that Tang was on his way to purchase a computer charger at Wan Chai, while Lam Chui-man and Lam Chi-ho were there to participate in a peaceful demonstration, without knowing that it had not been authorised by the police.
All three were wearing black clothing – the unofficial “uniform” of the 2019 protests – when they were arrested. Tang was also wearing a helmet and safety goggles, and attempted to run when officers told him to stop.
The judge said the defendants’ clothing “would have encouraged other protesters and made them think there was safety in numbers… and that they had sufficient manpower and moral support to resist law enforcement.”
“They and other participants had a shared purpose of resisting law enforcement,” Lin said, ruling them guilty of participating in the riot.
Meanwhile, Lau had argued that the mask, goggles and gloves found on him were “given by bystanders.” He also had a helmet, which he said was a gift from a friend to use while cycling, and a can of spray paint, which he said a priest at his church had asked him to bring.
Lin, however, said the helmet was not suitable for cycling, and the priest had told the court that Lau just “happened to have a spray paint on him.”
The judge added that Lau had thrown umbrellas and bricks at a police officer before he was arrested. Lin said Lau was also wearing a black T-shirt with “anti-police and anti-Communist Party” messages.
As the spray can had been used before, and there was footage showing people painting political slogans on buildings and public places at the scene, Lin said the only possible inference was that Lau kept the spray paint to write such slogans.
Lin ruled that the only explanation for Lau’s presence at the scene was that he intended to take part in the riot and had actually participated in it.
The court is scheduled to handle the mitigation and sentencing on Friday. The defendants will be remanded in custody in the meantime.
Because of their age, Lin said imprisonment was likely.
Five co-defendants in the same case – Leung Tak-wong, 22, Chu Kwong-wa, 31, Lau Wing-kin, 21, Yeung Chi-ho, 18, and Chu Kiu-chun, 23 – had earlier pleaded guilty and will be sentenced together with the four convicted on Friday.
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