A Hong Kong court has ordered two women and one man to complete up to 200 hours of community service over vandalism, after they admitted to scrawling graffiti on power boxes, lampposts and other public facilities on the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown last year.

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West Kowloon Law Courts Building. File photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Acting Principal Magistrate Veronica Heung on Thursday handed out the community service orders to defendants Yeong Yuen-shek, Ng Ka-sin and Chan Yuk-kiu, after they pleaded guilty to a total of eight counts of criminal damage across various districts in Hong Kong on June 4, 2022. The day marked 33 years since China’s military crackdown on a student-led movement in 1989.

Yeong, who had committed criminal damage before, was ordered to serve 200 hours of community service. Ng and Chan were asked to perform 160 hours.

The magistrate said that, while the offence committed had “considerable severity,” she decided not to impose any immediate custodial sentence on the trio – all aged 22 – because they “confessed guilt at the earliest opportunity.”

In pleading for a community service order sentence, Yeong and Ng’s representative said both defendants came from a “normal background” and were remorseful about their actions. They each also repaid the government HK$417 in cleaning fees for the vandalised facilities, as requested by the court last month, the lawyer said.

Chan’s lawyer also urged the court to penalise the defendant with community service orders, saying their defendant had a stable job and her chances of reoffending were low.

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Electronic candles marking the Tiananmen crackdown placed in a phone booth in Causeway Bay on June 4, 2022. File photo: HKFP.

Yeong, Ng and Chan were first brought to court in June, more than a year after they were apprehended in June 2022. Police at the time found more than 200 instances of graffiti of the same design in Tsuen Wan, Mong Kok, Wong Tai Sin and other districts.

The prosecution alleged that the three defendants vandalised a total of five power boxes, two parking meters, two post boxes, four lampposts, two traffic light posts, three rubbish bins, and one speed camera on June 4, 2022.

The damaged facilities were located in Shek Kip Mei, Apliu Street, Wong Chuk Street, Lai Chi Kok Road, Shanghai Street, Portland Street, Hamilton Street, Nathan Road and Fa Yuen Street.

According to local media, police uncovered 39 cans of spray paint and two stencils at Yeong’s residence when he was arrested. Yeong and Ng, who were a couple, had discussed scrawling the Chinese characters for “June 4” on the streets of Hong Kong in late May 2022. Yeong was said to have made a stencil and told Ng to wear something she would rarely wear.

During the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, it is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to disperse protesters in Beijing.

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.