Alvin Cheng, a former member of Hong Kong pro-democracy group Civic Passion, was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison for taking part in a riot at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University when it was under police siege during the 2019 protests and unrest.

Seven others were also jailed for seven to 13 months for attempting to help protesters escape the besieged campus, local media reported.

Alvin Cheng.
Alvin Cheng. Photo: Facebook via 鄭錦滿.

Alvin Cheng and his seven co-defendants Ip Ka-ki, 27, Ho Chi-ho, 28, Chan Kai-yin, 33, Wong Yat-to, 25, Fung Sze-yui, 30, Lam Wing-man, 31, and Leung Cho-kwong, 24, appeared in front of Deputy District Judge Cheng Lim-chi on Saturday for their sentencing.

The eight were all initially charged with committing acts “tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice” for allegedly trying to help people fleeing from the encircled university escape from police arrest. Only Ip, Wong and Leung had pleaded guilty to the charge.

Mid-way through the trial, the prosecution added a rioting charge against Alvin Cheng based on evidence that the activist had attempted to escape the campus by going into the drainage system.

Alvin Cheng was convicted of taking part in a riot at the university between November 17 and 20, 2019 after the trial. He was cleared of the perverting public justice charge but the other four defendants were all found guilty.

District Court
District Court. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

In mid-November, 2019, thousands of pro-democracy protesters barricaded themselves inside PolyU for over two weeks in a face-off against the police who surrounded the campus at all exits. Before the occupants’ eventual surrender, many made desperate attempts to escape by climbing through sewers or rappelling down the walls by rope.

Delayed prosecution

The judge set the starting point for Alvin Cheng’s sentencing at 4.5 years after considering the large scale of the Poly U incident and the “extremely high” number of participants.

Meanwhile, the judge said he was concerned that the rioting charge against Alvin Cheng was added three years after the incident. The judge said the delay could bring about “wrong expectations” for the defendant, as he did not know he would face a severer charge.

polyu siege november 2019 united social press hkfp lens
Protesters in the PolyU when it was under police siege during the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest. File photo: Tam Ming Keung/United Social Press.

In addition, as there was no evidence showing the activist had a leading role in the riot, and the defendant had agreed with most case details. Therefore, the judge reduced the sentencing by a total of 10 months. This brought Alvin Cheng’s jail time down to three years and eight months.

7 to 13 months for others

Among the other defendants, Ip Ka-ki received the lightest sentencing of seven months in prison. The judge said he had willingly provided his cell phone password to the police which led to the successful apprehension of five of his co-defendants.

After taking into account the guilty plea discount, the judge sentenced Wong to 10 months in jail and handed Leung nine months behind bars.

As for the four convicted after trial, Chan, Fung and Lam were each handed 12 months in prison, whereas Ho was jailed for 13 months.

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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.