District Court rules that defendants did not commit acts that disrupted social order on November 18, 2019, but their presence at scene alone constituted rioting.
Ten Hong Kong protesters have been found guilty of rioting in Kowloon in late November 2019 after a university campus was overrun by thousands of anti-government demonstrators at the start of one of the most chaotic chapters of the social unrest.
In handing down his verdict at the District Court on Saturday, judge Josiah Lam Wai-kuen found that while the 10 defendants did not engage in acts that disrupted social order in Yau Ma Tei on November 18, 2019, their presence at the scene alone constituted rioting.
“It is not that they were just at the scene without doing anything,” Lam said. “They knew there was a riot at the junction of Nathan Road and Waterloo Road, but they deliberately walked into the riot zone and stayed there.”
Another defendant, 21-year-old clerk Chan Tsz-wang, was acquitted after the judge ruled he was simply a “busybody” who happened to be at the location on the night in question and was not a rioter as prosecutors claimed.
Anti-government protesters at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hung Hom in 2019.
The convicted, who pleaded not guilty, were remanded in custody for sentence on January 7 next year. Among them was indie singer Lester Chong Zing, 28.
The anti-government protests started in the summer of 2019 over opposition to an extradition
bill, which was eventually withdrawn, and escalated throughout the autumn. Demonstrations broke out around the campus of Polytechnic University in Hung Hom and across the neighbouring Yau Tsim Mong district on November 18.
The 11 defendants, aged between 19 and 28 at the time, were among 213 people arrested by police and later charged with rioting in Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok that night.
Chong was found to have used WhatsApp to communicate with another defendant, photographer Chak Pak-lung, 28, about taking part in the riots. Chak referred to the protest as a “final battle”, the court heard.
Three other defendants argued they were only passing by the scene at the time or went to the area out of curiosity.
But the judge dismissed the claims and ruled all three entered the riot zone with a purpose. He highlighted they were carrying black face masks, helmets, respirators and gloves.
Lawmakers Gary Zhang Xinyu and Tik Chi-yuen earlier this week quoted Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung as saying that the authorities would decide in the next few weeks whether to charge about 6,000 people arrested during the social unrest in 2019.
But more time was needed to look into the protesters involved in the conflicts linked to the PolyU campus, they added.
Protesters turned the Hung Hom campus into a stronghold and battled police during a violent stand-off that lasted from November 17 to 29.