A Hong Kong woman who carried spanners at a protest in 2019, and was found guilty of possessing articles with intent to destroy property, has been denied a chance to appeal her conviction.

High Court.
Court of Appeal in the High Court. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Designer Carrie Lui, who had already finished serving the nine-month sentence, applied for leave to appeal her conviction at the Court of Appeal on Thursday.

The case related to an incident in Central on November 13, 2019, when protestors gathered in the vicinity of Pedder Street and Queen’s Road Central as the anti-extradition demonstrations sparked that summer continued. Protesters set up road blocks and started fires outside an MTR station exit, the court heard according to The Witness.

Police found three spanners on Lui, then 34, when she was arrested. She was charged with possessing anything with intent to destroy property, and convicted in January.

Lui’s legal representative said on Thursday that the District Court had erred in refusing to consider Lui’s testimony. During the trial last October, Lui testified that she was on the way to Central that day to meet her colleagues, and that she took three spanners from a toolbox with her because she needed to adjust lighting appliances. She said she also wore a mask to protect herself from tear gas.

"November 13" Central Hong Kong protest
Roadblocks set up by protestors in Central on November 13, 2019. Photo: Studio Incendo.

Her representative added on Thursday that videos showed that the scene was quiet at the time of the offence and that there was no violent behaviour observed. Therefore, Lui did not necessarily know that people were taking part in illegal acts. She also stayed on the pavement and avoided the roads, her representative said.

The Justice Department representative said that the lower court’s decision could be arrived at considering factors, such as the items Lui had with her and the situation at the time.

The charge of possessing anything with intent to destroy property is punishable by up to ten years in jail, although cases heard at the District Court may only hand down a maximum sentence of seven years.

Seven convicted in case

Rejecting Lui’s application, judge Anthea Pang said people had gathered around Queen’s Road Central, where they set roadblocks and started fires, by that afternoon.

She added that given Lui was wearing a mask, and also had gloves, zip ties and a respirator mask filter in her bag, the lower court had the right to determine that her purpose of carrying spanners was for illegal uses and not to adjust lighting appliances.

"November 13" Central Hong Kong protest
Protest graffiti in Central on November 13, 2019. Photo: Studio Incendo.

Including Lui, a total of eight defendants were charged in the case relating to the Central protest that November day. They faced offences including taking part in an unlawful assembly and criminal damage.

Among them, two pleaded guilty and six pleaded not guilty, with one being cleared of the charge. Those who were convicted were jailed for between nine and 18 months, The Witness reported.

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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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.