A Hong Kong man who claimed to be covering a protest in 2019 as a photojournalist has been convicted of taking part in a riot after the judge ruled that his testimony was “not credible.” He was among the 13 defendants found guilty in court on Saturday.

District Court
District Court. File photo: GovHK.

On Saturday morning, Deputy District Judge Ada Yim handed down her verdict in the case against Tang Miu-siu, 16, Yu Pak-hang, 20, Shih Ming-yeung, 21, Lee Wing-yin, 23, Chak Yiu-wai, 18, Chan Cheuk-nam, 20, Chen Zhi-yuan, 20, Dunne Chow, 20, Leonardo Chow, 27, Hung Ka-wing, 24, Lam Wai-lun, 21, Kris Li, 18, and Wong Tim-lok, 25.

All of the defendants were accused of taking part in a riot in Yau Ma Tei on the night of November 18, 2019. They were among 213 people arrested as police dispersed crowds that had attempted to reach Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which was at the time occupied by pro-democracy protesters and encircled by police.

Tang and Lam were also charged with possessing things with intent to destroy or damage property, while Yu was accused of possessing an offensive weapon – a laser pointer – in a public place. All 13 had earlier pleaded not guilty to their charges.

According to Saturday’s judgment, the defence had claimed that Lee Wing-yin was working as a photojournalist but was “mistaken” as a protester because he had stayed close to the crowd.

The defendant had testified that he was wearing a press pass and a helmet with the word “press” on it, with a folded reflective vest hanging around his waist. He also claimed that his camera had fallen to the ground when he was pushed over by the fleeing crowd, and he was caught and “assaulted” by police before he could pick it up.

November 18 Dylan Hollingsworth yau ma tei
Protest scene in Yau Ma Tei on November 18, 2019. File photo: Dylan Hollingsworth/HKFP.

However, the judge ruled that the injuries found on Lee did not match up with his account of being attacked by police officers or the claim that he had been wearing a helmet at that time.

Yim did not accept the defence’s claim that officers had “interfered” with the journalist gear Lee was wearing by putting it into Lee’s backpack, as it “would be far less easy than dropping them on the ground.”

“The defendant knew that reflective vests were for identifying journalists, but when he wore black and opted to take photos in the gathering black-clad crowd, he chose not to wear the reflective vest,” Yim said, ruling that Lee had “made-up his unreasonable outfit.”

After consideration, the judge said she sided with the prosecution’s analysis that Lee was “entirely not dressed like a journalist.” In addition, Yim said the defendant’s journalist’s pass, reflective vest and helmet served the same purpose as a change of clothes for him to alter his outfit.

polyu polytechnic university protest
Hong Kong Polytechnic University. File photo: Jimmy Lam/HKFP.

As a result, the judge ruled that Lee had been a member of frontline protesters and was guilty of participating in the riot in question.

Eight other defendants in the case had testified or summoned witnesses to prove that they were only by-standers, claims that were not accepted by the judge.

In the end, Yim ruled that all 13 defendants had intended to participate in a riot and therefore found them guilty. Tang, Lam and Yu were also convicted of their additional charges.

According to The Witness, the judge had asked for a training centre report for Tang, who was the youngest among the defendants. Training centres offer an alternative sentence to imprisonment for offenders aged under 21.

The sentencing hearing for Tang, Yu, Lee, and Chen was scheduled on June 2, whereas Shih, Chan, Leonardo Chow, Hung, and Wong will receive sentencing on June 5. The remaining four will be sentenced on June 8.

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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.