51/2 years jail for last right-of-abode protester
The last member of a group of right-of-abode seekers has been jailed for 51/2 years for his role in the fiery protest in the Immigration Tower five years ago that killed two people.
Mr Justice Michael Lunn told the Court of First Instance yesterday that Lee Sai-yau, then 17, was a 'foot soldier' in the arson attack inside Room 1301 of the Immigration Tower in Wan Chai on August 2, 2000.
Prosecutor Alain Sham said outside court after sentencing: 'I am pleased that the sentencing of Lee brings the saga, which began five years ago, to an end.'
But Jackie Hung, a project officer of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Diocese, Hong Kong, said that while violent action could not be justified, the government policy on the right of abode had been oppressive and discriminatory.
In June, seven others involved in the violent protest were jailed for up to eight years after pleading guilty in a retrial to two counts of manslaughter by gross negligence. One of the seven men, Sze Kwan-lung, 28, was described as the person who 'occupied the role of the leader and spokesperson of the group'.
Lee, now 22, was found guilty by a jury last Friday of manslaughter for causing the death of senior immigration officer Leung Kam-kwong by an unlawful, dangerous act. He was cleared of a count of manslaughter in the death of Lam Siu-sing, a fellow abode seeker.
In the standoff with immigration officers on August 2, Lee was seen unscrewing a bottle and brandishing it in one hand, while holding a cigarette lighter in his other hand. Other people, in the centre of the room, were seen pouring thinner indiscriminately.
The confrontation with the immigration officers ended with a fire in the room, leaving Leung and Lam with fatal injuries. Another 21 immigration officers and all abode seekers required treatment.
Mr Justice Lunn accepted the defence counsel plea that Lee's youth was a mitigating factor in reducing his sentence.
The judge observed that 'you [Lee] were by far the youngest participant in the criminal enterprise'. Sze Kwan-lung, was then 22, while several others were in their mid-30s.
He also said that while the tragic incident was the 'culmination of a month of intermittent demonstrations', it was the first time Lee was actually present and took part in such a protest.
Lee joined the protest after having been recruited the day before the incident, the judge said.
Mr Justice Lunn further took into consideration the fact that Lee had already spent 41/2 years in prison. Lee was jailed for 41/2 years after being convicted of arson by a jury in June 2002 for his role in the attack.