Six Hong Kong protesters have been jailed for up to five years and three months for rioting near a university besieged by police during the height of the 2019 anti-government unrest.
The five men and one woman, aged 23 to 49, were on Monday sentenced at the District Court over what a deputy judge said was a “very violent” stand-off between protesters and police near Polytechnic University on November 18, 2019.
Deputy Judge Amy Chan Wai-mun said the riot involved a substantial degree of premeditation and organisation, adding it could have inflicted widespread damage and serious casualties if police had not intervened.
“The present case involves an extremely serious offence of rioting … The protesters gathered and stirred up trouble with the common purpose of resisting police officers,” she said.
Chan added the unrest at the university was in no way less serious than the disorder in Mong Kok in 2016, which involved former independence activist Edward Leung Tin-kei. Once considered the face of the city’s independence movement, Leung was released from jail after being sentenced in 2018 to six years for rioting.
The university witnessed some of the worst violence during the months-long protests triggered by a proposed extradition bill in June 2019, which was later scrapped.
The six were among 213 people rounded up at a junction a kilometre away from the campus in Hung Hom, which protesters had turned into a stronghold in their battle with police.
Convictions have been dealt to 165 defendants so far, according to Senior Inspector Poon Sung-lai, who oversees police’s Kowloon East regional public order event investigation team. He said 137 people were sentenced to 29 to 64 months in prison.
Two were acquitted after trial, while three absconded.
Fitness trainer Leung Siu-ming, 49, volleyball coach Tse Kin-lok, 27, and software engineer Cheung Chong-fat, 34, were on Monday jailed for five years and one month each for their roles in the Yau Ma Tei protest.
Leung received an extra two months behind bars for possession of an offensive weapon in the form of a laser pointer, for a total of five years and three months.
Private tutor Wong Ka-wing, 23, was jailed for five years for rioting, a month less than the trio, because of his young age at the time of his transgression.
Marketing assistant Kwok Kit-chiu, 23, and piano instructor Ivy Lau Sze-tung, 29, were handed the shortest sentences after they pleaded guilty at the start of the trial. The former received three years and 11 months in jail, while the latter was handed a four-year sentence.
On November 18, 2019, about 2,000 people gathered near Yau Ma Tei MTR station at 10.30pm. An estimated 250 petrol bombs were hurled at police in the span of 50 minutes, causing fires at several spots along Nathan Road.
Officers fired about 400 rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets and used nine tear gas grenades in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
A police operation to barricade the university had left more than 1,000 people trapped on the premises. Their supporters staged various demonstrations across Kowloon in the hope of giving them a window to escape.
The 213 people were arrested on a section of Nathan Road between Waterloo Road and Hamilton Street at around 11.26pm.
They were detained for two days before being taken to six Magistrates’ Courts across the city to face rioting charges. To date, it is the largest number of defendants simultaneously taken to court over the same alleged offence.