A man who pleaded guilty to throwing flammable objects at the official residence of Hong Kong’s chief executive in 2021 has been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.
Wong Chun-yin, 25, appeared in front of Judge Frankie Yiu for sentencing at District Court on Friday morning.
He pleaded guilty earlier this month to destroying or damaging Hong Kong government property by fire at the chief executive’s residence on July 1, 2021 – the anniversary of Hong Kong’s Handover from the UK to China.
At around 1:30 a.m. that day, Wong threw gas tanks, white oil cans and other flammable objects at Government House – the chief executive’s residence – which caused some vegetation about 50 metres away from the building to catch fire.
Wong was arrested the following day, and police found a notebook at his home containing the names and personal data of 25 officials, lawmakers, pro-establishment camp supporters and their family members, including then-chief executive Carrie Lam.
During mitigation, defence barrister Catherine Wong urged the judge to consider a lighter sentence as the offence did not target anyone, adding that it lasted for a short time and only affected a small area that was a distance from the Government House building and any people.
Citing the defendant’s background and psychological reports, the lawyer said he had always wanted to join the Fire Services Department but was unable to do so because of a spinal condition. He had also recently lost his job at a noodle shop because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said the defendant was remorseful and recognised that he had dealt with the employment issue “immaturely,” wrongfully blaming the problem on other people, including the government, and venting his grievances incorrectly. His act was an one-off incident and unrelated to other social events at that time, the defence said.
Reasons for sentencing
When handing down the sentence, judge Yiu said arson was a “very serious offence” and the court must consider the factor of deterrence.
He said the fact that the defendant had acted with a plan and a target – by inspecting the surroundings of Government House days ahead and marking down the positions of security cameras, police posts and other information – added to the severity of the offence.
The judge said he had also considered that the offence took place on the anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and that many flammable objects had been ignited, causing multiple explosions. Additionally, Yiu said the area had plenty of plants and it would have been easy for the blaze to spread.
Judge Yiu said the offence committed by the defendant warranted up to five years of imprisonment, but he decided to reduce the starting point of the sentence to four years after considering the mitigation factors.
As the defendant pleaded guilty, he received a one-third sentencing discount, and was ultimately jailed for 32 months.
Before the hearing ended, Yiu urged Wong Chun-yin not to vent his negative feelings at other people again. “You can chat with your family, or talk to other people. When you are out, please work hard and make a fresh start,” he said.
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