Three people have pleaded guilty to possessing offensive weapons and obstructing a police officer in a Hong Kong MTR station during the 2019 protests and unrest.

Kowloon City Law Courts
Kowloon City Law Courts Building. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Lau Yu-hang, Lau Hung-fat and Lai Cheuk-yu appeared at Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts on Wednesday afternoon, more than four years after the incident.

The charges date back to the night of August 31, 2019, when protesters and police clashed in Prince Edward MTR station after hours of city-wide demonstrations. Officers wielded batons and deployed pepper spray inside train carriages and on the platform, leaving dozens injured.

According to the case details, Lau Yu-hung charged towards a man on the platform who had been subdued by police officers and attempted to pull him away. Officers then subdued Lau, and she was charged with obstructing a police officer.

Lau Hung-fat and Lai were searched by police officers on the platform, and were arrested on suspicion of possessing offensive weapons after officers found laser pens on them.

The three pleaded guilty to the charges before magistrate Don So and were remanded in custody. They will be sentenced on September 27.

august 31 china extradition
Photo: May James/HKFP.

In mitigation, Lau Yu-hung’s lawyer said that in the midst of the chaos with people running and emergency broadcasts playing, the defendant did not know how to handle the situation when witnessing somebody being subdued by police. The lawyer added that Lau and her mother had experienced suicidal thoughts due to stress caused by the case, and had to seek help from a social worker.

Lau Hung-fat’s lawyer said there was no evidence he had used the laser pen. The lawyer representing Lai said the defendant only committed the offence due to the heated social atmosphere and was now remorseful.

Six defendants plead not guilty

The three defendants appeared alongside eight others on Wednesday afternoon who also faced charges related to the clashes at Prince Edward MTR station that August night.

The other defendants stood accused of offences including attacking a police officer, possessing offensive weapons and obstructing a police officer.

One of the defendants, Lam Ping-hin, earlier pleaded guilty to possessing a wireless communication device without a license and was sentenced to 160 hours of community service on Wednesday.

august 31 china extradition admiralty (15)
A protest on August 31, 2019. File photo: May James/HKFP.

One defendant has yet to enter a plea and six pleaded not guilty. They were allowed bail and will face trial on November 6.

All 11 were charged in May, almost four years after protests erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. The demonstrations escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. 

Over 10,250 protest-related arrests were made, police said, about 40 per cent of whom were secondary school or university students.

Of those arrested, police said in February that 2,899 people had been charged. Apart from 800-odd people whose cases were serious and still being investigated, there were almost 6,500 who were yet to be charged.

In mid-March, the Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu told reporters that police would announce how they planned to deal with the remaining cases within the month. Almost six months on, however, police told HKFP that the cases were still being reviewed and that it had no further updates.

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Hillary Leung is a journalist at Hong Kong Free Press, where she reports on local politics and social issues, and assists with editing. Since joining in late 2021, she has covered the Covid-19 pandemic, political court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial, and challenges faced by minority communities.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hillary completed her undergraduate degree in journalism and sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She worked at TIME Magazine in 2019, where she wrote about Asia and overnight US news before turning her focus to the protests that began that summer. At Coconuts Hong Kong, she covered general news and wrote features, including about a Black Lives Matter march that drew controversy amid the local pro-democracy movement and two sisters who were born to a domestic worker and lived undocumented for 30 years in Hong Kong.