Man found guilty of causing Hong Kong Legco bin explosion in protest at ‘Internet Article 23’
Former student union president to be sentenced on March 22
A former president of Shue Yan University’s student union, who quit the auxiliary police after participating in the Occupy protests, was found guilty on Thursday of helping set off an explosion outside the Legislative Council.
The District Court convicted Joe Yeung Yat-long, 23, of one count of conspiracy to commit arson. He had denied involvement.
The court also said his co-defendant, Ip Cheuk-yin, 20, who admitted acting as lookout and pleaded guilty to the same charge early this year, would probably go to jail.
Yeung had been a member of the city’s Auxiliary Police Force, but resigned after being upset over the way police handled the 2014 Occupy protests.
On December 9, 2015, legislators debated the controversial Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014.
A large crowd gathered to protest the bill, claiming it could trample free speech on the internet. The bill is commonly dubbed “Internet Article 23”, a reference to the section of the Basic Law which deals with national security legislation.
According to Legco video footage, two men with their faces covered approached the bin at about 8.30pm.
“One of them, holding what appeared to be a torch, lit the device and threw it into the bin,” the prosecutor told the court earlier.
Meanwhile, Ip stood by to observe, the court heard. The device exploded three minutes after he and his accomplice left.
The canister exploded, damaging the HK$1,250 bin and throwing the bin’s lid into the air. It also set off the fire alarm at a nearby public toilet.
Deputy district judge Lily Wong Sze-lai said she was certain Yeung had taken part in the arson plot, as she believed he deliberately called and asked his friend, Lam Kwok-lun, to buy him isopropyl alcohol and a newspaperbefore the blast. Yeung also asked Lam to bring the items and meet him at the Legco complex that evening.
Wong rejected Yeung’s lawyers’ claim that Lam might have unknowingly been dealing with someone other than Yeung, as he only spoke on the phone about the items, and handed them over to someone behind a mask.
“Yeung and Lam have known each other for about a year. I believe Lam can recognise a familiar voice and face,” she said.
“The newspaper can help the fire spread. If it was not a conspiracy, Yeung wouldn’t have asked his friend to buy the items and bring them to Legco. A copy of The Wall Street Journal was also found inside the rubbish bin. That could not be a coincidence.”
Wong said Yeung had wandered about the bin before putting the items into it. Three minutes later, the bin exploded.
“He put the items into the bin and let [another person] light the fire. Everyone had a role to play to make the bin blast,” Wong said.
In mitigation, Ip’s lawyers said he regretted his act, and that he had only been worried that the government would tighten up freedom of speech on the internet.
“So he must use illegal means to express his views?” Wong asked rhetorically, adding that she would probably jail him.
Wong adjourned sentencing to March 22. Ip and Yeung were remanded in custody.
Conspiracy to commit arson carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.