Four Hongkongers who were arrested after hiding out in safehouses for two years have pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, including one who was shot by police during protests in 2019. He also pleaded guilty to charges related to a 2019 protest.

Tsang Chi-kin, who was shot by a police officer at point-blank range during a protest in 2019, was among four defendants to appear before before Deputy District Judge Ada Yim at the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on Thursday for the District Court case, local media reported.

West Kowloon Law Courts Building.
West Kowloon Law Courts Building. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Tsang, 22, Alex Wong, 23, a 17-year-old surnamed Wong, and Yip Ho pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, while Tsang also pleaded guilty to protest charges laid against him in 2019 before he went into hiding.

Yip was alleged to have helped Tsang and the two Wongs and a fifth defendant Fung Ching-wah hide in safehouses.

Earlier this month, Fung was handed a four-year jail term for rioting and perverting the course of justice.

Assaulting an officer

Tsang, who was 18 years old when he was initially charged, pleaded guilty to participating in a riot in Tsuen Wan, and to assaulting a police officer. Tsang faced another count of assaulting an officer which was kept on court file.

October 1 National Day protests Hong Kong Island Wan Chai Admiralty Causeway Bay tear gas
A protest on Oct. 1, 2019. File photo: Aidan Marzo/HKFP.

According to the case details, Tsang attacked a police officer with a white metal rod, while other protesters joined in, hitting the officer with their fists, hammers, clamps, and other objects, according to local media reports.

Another officer, Tsang Ka-fai, stepped in and was also attacked by protesters. Tsang Chi-kin, dressed in black and equipped with a helmet and a respirator, hit the sergeant on his right arm, which was holding his service pistol. “Using reasonable force,” the sergeant fired a shot, bringing the protester to the ground, local media 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.” 

Failed escape

Regarding the perversion charge, the court heard that members of a YouTube channel offered to help the four protesters. Yip was part of the channel from late 2019 to September 2021.

The protesters hid in several different apartments in Kwai Chung after failing to show up to their court dates linked to the protest charges, and were eventually arrested in Pak Tam Chung, from where they had planned to flee to Taiwan by sea.

Tsang Chi-kin
Tsang Chi-kin.

The court also heard that the two Wongs had paid one of the channel operators some HK$550,000 for the escape plan, which ultimately failed.

According to local media, Yip had admitted to receiving HK$120,000 to find food and shelter for the four protesters. But because of internal conflicts, he “cut ties” with the channel and stopped helping the fugitives, the court heard.

Statements of no ‘substantial use’

Judge Yim said Tsang’s case should be considered a late guilty plea, which did not warrant the full one-third sentence reduction that usually comes with a prompt admission of guilt.

Tsang’s lawyer Queenie Ng said the court’s time had not been wasted as the prosecution had not yet prepared its case when her client attempted to flee the city.

tsang chi kin shot in the chest Oct 1 2019
Protester Tsang Chi-kin was shot in the chest by police on October 1, 2019 during a protest in Tsuen Wan. Photo: CityU Editorial Board video screenshot.

Ng added that Tsang was cooperative in police investigations, but the prosecution argued that his statements were not of any “substantial use” as the police already had the relevant information.

Yim after hearing closing statements from both sides, said the severity of Yip’s crimes greatly surpassed those of the other three defendants. They will be sentenced on October 18, while the court awaits rehabilitation centre, detention centre, and training centre reports for Wong, the teenaged defendant.

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James Lee is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he witnessed the institution’s transformation over the course of the 2019 extradition bill protests and after the passing of the Beijing-imposed security law.

Since joining HKFP in 2023, he has covered local politics, the city’s housing crisis, as well as landmark court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial. He was previously a reporter at The Standard where he interviewed pro-establishment heavyweights and extensively covered the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong’s political overhauls under the national security law.