Two student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) have been acquitted of taking part in an illegal assembly two years ago.

Owen Au, an ex-student leader, and Ian Leung appeared in front of Magistrate Gary Chu at the Shatin Magistrates’ Courts on Friday.

Owen Au
Owen Au. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

They were among the four people charged for allegedly taking part in an unlawful assembly at a checkpoint outside the CUHK campus on January 11, 2021. They were allegedly protesting increasing campus security measures amid citywide pro-democracy protests and unrest.

Cho Tak-hei, another defendant in the case, pleaded guilty in August last year and was sentenced to six weeks in prison that September.

Earlier this month, the magistrate ruled earlier that the evidence against the remaining defendant – Leung Yat-hei – was insufficient for a prima facie case, and the case against him was dismissed earlier.

‘Insufficient evidence’

On Friday, the magistrate ruled that, while CCTV footage showed that there were three to four people in black on the scene, there was no direct evidence proving that Au and Ian Leung took part in the incident, the Witness reported.

Chu also ruled that the hoodie worn by Au was not unique, as the same item was worn by a lot of other CUHK students. The red plastic bag took from the scene was also commonly used in wet markets, and therefore it could not be confirmed that Au was involved.

As for Leung, the magistrate said that, while he was near the scene and was talking to the people committing the offence, the court was unable to know about the conversation, according to the Witness.

Shatin Law Courts Building, Shatin Magistrates' Courts
Shatin Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The magistrate added that the fact Leung was filming near the area cannot be construed as causing trouble, and his actions did not match those of the black-clad people. Therefore, the prosecution could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the university student took part in the illegal assembly, Chi said, according to Sing Tao.

The university implemented new restrictions on campus from November 2019 amid citywide unrest, as security measures were gradually increased. Students and teachers had to go through an identity card check, whilst visitor information was registered on arrival.

According to the prosecution’s case, a group of around 10 people gathered near the checkpoint at the campus entrance near Exit A of the University MTR station, some of whom shouted “do not show them your identity cards.”

During the minute-long incident, eggs and white powder were thrown at the security guards, and barricades were pushed over.

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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.