A Hong Kong man who was shot by police during a National Day protest in 2019 has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for rioting and assaulting a police officer.
Wearing a white shirt and with his long hair in a bun, Tsang Chi-kin, who was 18 at the time of the incident, appeared in front of Judge Ada Yim at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts for the District Court case on Wednesday. He pleaded guilty to both charges last month.
Tsang was caught up in clashes between protesters and police on October 1, 2019, when the city saw widespread demonstrations to “mourn” National Day amid protests sparked by a controversial amendment to the city’s extradition bill.
That day, an officer fired a live round at Tsang at close range in Tsuen Wan. He was shot in his left lung – three centimetres from his heart – leaving him in hospital in a critical condition. He later went through surgery to remove the bullet.
When providing reasons for the 42-month sentence, Yim said some 200 people had gathered at an intersection along Hoi Pa Road at around 3 pm on the afternoon in question. People threw petrol bombs and bricks, and lit fires, Yim said. They did not relent even as police tried to disperse the protesters.
Tsang was wearing a black t-shirt, goggles, a respirator and gloves at the time and also had a makeshift shield, Yim added.
The defendant, now 22, was a Form 6 student at the time and had no prior criminal record. He was also diagnosed with depression in 2017. His parents, teachers and principal spoke favourably of him and appealed to the court to deliver him a lighter sentence.
Yim said Tsang cooperated with police during the investigation, and wrote in his own plea letter that he regretted his actions and was swayed by the societal atmosphere at the time. But she said Tsang’s depression and his injury from being shot were not reasons for a lower penalty.
Yim delivered a sentence of 40 months for the riot charge, and seven months for the assaulting an officer charge. The sentences were to be served concurrently barring two of the months, totalling a final jail term of 42 months.
Two years in hiding
While a UK-based advocacy group said in 2020 that Tsang had fled Hong Kong and gone into exile, he was arrested with three others in Sai Kung last July during a planned escape to Taiwan by boat. Before that, the four had spent two years hiding in safehouses, police said.
Police said the four were shuttled between safehouses in cardboard boxes. A group was supporting them with crowdfunded money, but police said they had stopped giving them food or paying rent.
The four, and a man who was said to have helped conceal them, have been charged with perverting the course of justice.
Fung Ching-wah, who was among those in hiding with Tsang, was sentenced to four years in jail last month for rioting and perverting the course of justice.
Yim was set to hand down sentences for perverting the course of justice for Tsang and the remaining defendants later on Wednesday.
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.”
They came to a halt amid the Covid-19 pandemic and Beijing’s imposition of a national security law, which criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts – broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.
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