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Wednesday, Apr 14, 2021

Social worker sees unrest sentence cut

Social worker sees unrest sentence cut

The first social worker to be imprisoned during the unrest, Lau Ka-tung, has seen his jail sentence for obstructing the police reduced from a year to eight months.
Lau, 25, had to be jailed immediately yesterday, but he plans to appeal against his conviction and sentence further at the city's highest court.

Last June, Lau was convicted of deliberately obstructing police constable Chan Pui-kit near the junction between On Lok Road and Tai Cheung Street in Yuen Long on July 27, 2019.

Although High Court Judge Albert Wong Sung-hau reduced Lau's sentence yesterday, he rejected his appeal against the conviction, saying Lau's action constituted obstruction to police.

Lau appeared calm upon hearing the judgment and showed a hand gesture for "five demands, not one less" in the courtroom.

In a written judgment, Wong said it was important for police officers to stay together and maintain a formation because they were outnumbered. But Lau's obstruction delayed their operation.

"It's impossible that [Lau] did not know the situation he was in. His behavior affected officers' operation under severe circumstances and encouraged those who gathered illegally at the scene," Wong said.

Wong added that Lau's behavior increased risks for police officers and delayed the restoration of public order.

Senior counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung, representing Lau, argued that Lau begged the police to allow more time for protesters to leave in a humble manner and that Lau only caused some inconvenience to the police as opposed to obstructing them.

But Wong said there is no evidence to show Lau had any influence on protesters and Pang's claim was not convincing.

"[Lau] is a social worker and he was staying with other social workers at the scene, so I won't rule out the possibility that they believed they should do something because of their identities," Wong said.

Even if Lau only aimed to get officers to give protesters more time to leave, it was just his "wishful thinking," because the crowd did not leave the scene, Wong said.

But Wong agreed that Lau did not use violence and did not obstruct the police for a long period. Lau also showed no malicious intentions to the police and did not put officers in immediate danger.

Former social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said outside the court yesterday that Lau will continue to appeal against his conviction and sentence to the Court of Final Appeal.

Shiu also said social workers were saddened by the verdict and believed the sentence was too harsh because Lau did not act violently or hold a weapon and the police officer was not injured.
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