A Hong Kong court has sentenced seven people to up to three years in jail for rioting in Admiralty, when the city was in the throes of the 2019 anti-extradition unrest.

Eight defendants – Wong Yik-lee, Chow Chun-hei, Wong Tak-chun, Hon Wai-kit, Martin Li, Calvin Shek, Lau Ka-ho and Mathieu Lui – appeared at District Court on Thursday, with Wong Tak-chun to be sentenced later.

A protest in Admiralty on Sept. 29, 2019. File Photo: May James/HKFP

Wong Yik-lee, Li and Shek were handed a jail sentence of 30 months and two weeks, while Lau was imprisoned for 32 months, local media reported.

Lui, Chow and Hon were jailed for 33 months and two weeks, 34 months and two weeks, and 36 months respectively.

The seven defendants – who all pleaded guilty earlier – were aged between 18 and 25 at the time of the incident. An eighth defendant, Wong Tak-chun, will be sentenced on March 2. As he was 16 at the time, he can serve time in a training centre, an alternative to imprisonment for younger offenders.

Sep. 29, 2019 riot

The incident took place on September 29, 2019, when Hong Kong was around three months into unrest sparked by a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of fugitives to mainland China to stand trial.

A protest in Causeway Bay on Sept. 29, 2019. Photo: May James/HKFP.

At around 1 p.m. that day, around 20,000 people marched from Sogo department store in Causeway Bay to the government headquarters in Admiralty, the court heard.

See also: In Pictures: Water cannon, tear gas and Molotovs as police and protesters clash in high-speed Hong Kong Island chase

Later, hundreds set up road blocks on Harcourt Road and faced off against police. Protesters threw petrol bombs and set fire to road signs as police responded with tear gas and deployed a water cannon truck, Sing Tao reported.

The eight were arrested at the scene. They were among 52 people charged in relation to the incident.

Deputy District Judge David Cheung said they were standing on the front lines wearing respirators and other equipment, showing they had come prepared. Although it was believed they did not take on a leadership role, their participation nonetheless “generated momentum,” RTHK quoted him as saying.

A protest in Admiralty on Sept. 29, 2019. Photo: May James/HKFP

He said Hon, who received the longest sentence of the seven, brandished a hammer that could be used to carve up bricks at a police officer, while Lui had thrown objects at officers.

The judge added that the defendants were swayed by the atmosphere in society at the time and acted in a way that was out of character.

Investigations ongoing

A total of 10,297 people were arrested during the months-long unrest that began in June 2019, with protests dying down amid Covid-19 and the passing of Beijing’s security law in 2020.

Almost three years later, thousands of cases are still being investigated. Sing Tao reported earlier that the police would be suspending the probe into 6,236 people.

A protest in Causeway Bay on Sept. 29, 2019. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Asked by a reporter on Wednesday, Deputy Secretary for Justice Horace Cheung said the relevant government departments would be making a decision on the cases in the coming days.

He added that the Secretary for Justice had “all along been [responding] speedily” to the enforcement agencies that were handling the cases.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.