Two Hong Kong men have had their attempt to appeal their convictions for rioting during the protests in 2019 shot down.
Fong Kam-fai and Ho Chung-yuen appeared at the Court of Appeal to apply for leave to appeal on Friday. The pair were among 11 defendants convicted in February of rioting in Yau Ma Tei on November 18, 2019, during the anti-extradition bill unrest.
They were both jailed for four and a half years after the judge said the riot took place at a time that Hong Kong was experiencing large-scale, violent protests, and that deterrent sentences were needed.
Fong was 23 at the time of the incident, while Ho was 22.
Judge Maggie Poon said while delivering her verdict on Friday that there were “no reasonable grounds” in Fong and Ho’s arguments for appeal.
Poon said she would hand down her reasons for rejecting their appeal bid within three months.
Ho represented himself on Friday. Wearing a navy blue hoodie, he said that – at the time of the protest – he had a headache and back pain and wanted to go to Kwong Wah Hospital for treatment.
He said the judge who presided over the trial at District Court should not have ruled out the possibility that he was en route to the hospital and was simply passing by the rally.
But Poon said Ho had not testified in court, so it did not fall on the court to come up with a reasonable defence for the defendant.
Ho also said he had not had a phone with him so he was unaware of what was happening at the time and accidentally found himself at the protest.
Meanwhile, Fong’s barrister said that even though she accepted the District Court judge’s findings, they were not sufficient to support the decision to convict her client. She added that there was no way of knowing what Fong had been doing prior to his arrest.
In response, Poon said that precedents at the Court of Appeal established that there was no need to show evidence of a defendant’s violent acts or whether they had actively taken part in a riot. Instead, the atmosphere on the scene, clothing and place of arrest were sufficient to determine that Fong had participated in a riot.
The government prosecutor likened the protest to a warzone, and said anybody who was not taking part in the riot would not be at the scene because it was “too dangerous and quite scary.”
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.”
The demonstrations dried up in 2020 amid the Covid-19 outbreak and Beijing’s imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong that June.
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