A man who lost an appeal against his conviction and 51-month sentence over his involvement in a mob attack in Yuen Long in 2019 has told the court that the authorities urged him to to it, local media have reported.

Decorator Ching Wai-ming, 64, appeared at the Court of Appeal on Friday. He was convicted of rioting and conspiracy of causing injury and sentenced to four years and three months in jail in October 2022 for participating in an indiscriminate attack against protesters, commuters and journalists at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019.

yuen long attack 721
Rod-wielding men entered Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019. Photo: RTHK.

Ching did not have a legal representative for his appeal. He told the court that he thought the police had not properly handled the suspect identification process and that officers had not found the clothes he was wearing on the day of the attack. The attackers that day were seen wearing white shirts. He also argued that the sentence was too heavy.

Several times, Ching told the court that he wanted to “share the truth about what happened that day”.

“If I don’t say it today, I won’t have another chance,” Ching told judge Anthea Pang in Cantonese.

“I thought the government was telling me to do it. It was that simple,” Ching said. In response, the judge said “I have to stop you now,” adding that an appeal hearing was not a retrial and the court did not allow for expressions of personal feeling.

High Court.
High Court. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The court rejected Ching’s bid to appeal his conviction and sentence, with Pang saying the original trial was fair and thorough, and the sentence was fair.

On July 21, 2019, over 100 rod-wielding men stormed Yuen Long MTR station leaving 45 people injured – including journalists, protesters, commuters and pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting. Police were criticised for responding slowly to the incident, with some officers seen leaving the scene or interacting with the white-clad men. The official account of the incident evolved over a year, with the authorities eventually claiming it was a “gang fight.”

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.” 

Impact of the attack

The attack in 2019 sparked anger and distrust against authorities, with some suspecting the men in white shirts – many of them villagers from Yuen Long – were supported by pro-establishment forces.

yuen long attack 721
Rod-wielding men entered Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019. Photo: RTHK.

When sentencing Ching last October, judge Deputy District Judge Newman Wong said that the Yuen Long “riot” happened from 10.40 pm to 11.14 pm on July 21, 2019, and Ching participated in the second round of attack. The judge said Ching did not carry any weapon when walking into the Yuen Long MTR station but later attacked others with a rattan cane.

The court also said that Ching waved to others in white shirts upon leaving the station, and indicated for others to proceed towards the train platform, showing Ching had actively participated in the incident but was not a leader.

The judge added that many people got injured on July 21, 2019, and fortunately many of them had minor injuries, but the impact of the incident was evident in the public outrage at that time.

Correction 28/8: The original trial judge was Anna Lai, not Newman Wong, as originally reported. Lai handled the defendant’s bail application. We regret the error.

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Irene Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press and has an interest in covering political and social change. She previously worked at Initium Media as chief editor for Hong Kong news and was a community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation serving the underprivileged. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Fudan University and a master’s degree in social work from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Irene is the recipient of two Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards and three honourable mentions for her investigative, feature and video reporting. She also received a Human Rights Press Award for multimedia reporting and an honourable mention for feature writing.