Ten Hong Kong protesters have been jailed for up to four years and 10 months for their roles in a riot linked to the police siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) during the 2019 pro-democracy protests and unrest.
Lui Hiu-tin, 28, Mui Chun-ho, 26, Ng Cheuk-wang, 25, Ng Yuet-kiu, 29, O Chun-ming, 26, On Chun-yin, 23, Poon Yi-ching, 28, Tai Cheuk-yan, 22, Wong Chi-yung, 25, and Yu Ka-ching, 26, appeared in front of Judge Anthony Kwok for mitigation and sentencing on Tuesday morning.
Yu had earlier pleaded guilty to participating in a riot in Yau Ma Tei on the night of November 18, 2019. The nine others were found guilty of rioting at trial.
Ng Yuet-kiu was also found guilty of possessing spray paint with intent to destroy or damage property.
On that day, pro-democracy demonstrators had rallied across Kowloon in attempts to reach the campus of PolyU that was occupied by protesters and surrounded by the police.
The 10 defendants were among the 213 people surrounded and arrested as police dispersed protesters that night. All of those arrested were charged with rioting.
The judge said the riot in question was “among the largest in scale in 2019,” with as many as 2,000 participants. In comparison, the judge said the police had deployed only 200 officers, who had at one point exhausted all their ammunition.
Police identified 251 petrol bombs thrown by protesters from footage of the scene, Kwok added. He said that amount and frequency showed that there had been detailed forward planning, saying it would require “a large amount of people and resources to produce and transport the petrol bombs.”
The judge said some petrol bombs had landed close to the officers and “posed serious threats to [their] safety.” He said it was only thanks to their appropriate protective gear that only four officers were injured.
Kwok added that the riot had caused members of the public to worry about their personal safety.
Citing the testimony from a minibus route operator, who said they had received no income for the day, Kwok said: “The rioters’ were driven by self interest. For their personal ideals or grievances against society, they recklessly destroyed social peace, caused nuisance to the public and economic losses to legitimate business owners.’
While acknowledging that there was no direct evidence the 10 defendants had breached the peace or attacked the police, the judge said they “must still bear the relevant criminal responsibility for rioting that night.”
After considering the mitigation factors, Ng Yuet-kiu was sentenced to four years and 10 months in jail.
Mui, Ng Cheuk-wang, O and On were each sentenced to four years and nine months in prison, despite the starting point for On’s sentencing being set at 63 months after he was found with a pair of fireproof gloves in his bag.
Kwok said that indicated On had intended to throw, transfer or produce petrol bombs, but reduced his sentence because On did not have a criminal record and was a member of Hong Kong’s Taekwondo team who won in multiple international competitions and received 11 scholarships amounting to HK$150,000 throughout his university study.
Lui, Poon and Wong were jailed for four years and six months, as, Kwok said, they were not found with any protest gear on them.
As for Tai, who was only at the age of 19 at the time of incident, Kwok gave an additional four-month discount as she could have been sentenced to a training centre if legal proceedings had ended before she turned 21. She was jailed for four years and two months.
After taking her guilty plea into account, Yu was sentenced to three years and nine months in jail.
Meanwhile, after learning from mitigation that Yu, a registered nurse, and On, a qualified auditor, might have their professional licenses revoked due to their conviction, the judge said he hoped the relevant professional bodies would handle their cases with “flexibility.”
Protests erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.”
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