Lunar New Year clashes in Mong Kok did not amount to riot, court told
Barrister also claims client’s presence at tense scene not enough to impose criminal liability
Unrest in Mong Kok last year did not amount to a “riot” under the law, a court heard on Friday.
Barrister Erik Shum Sze-man, who was making his closing submission at a trial of three people accused of rioting, said the city’s law defined the offence narrowly.
He was arguing for 23-year-old university student Hui Ka-ki. She, student Mak Tsz-hei, 20, and cook Sit Tat-wing, 33, face one joint charge of rioting. The three have pleaded not guilty and will face their verdicts on March 16.
On the morning of February 9, 2016, dozens of protesters gathered on the northbound lane of Nathan Road near Soy Street, according to the prosecution, following a confrontation between local crowds and police over hawker control the previous night.
On the day of the protests, police sent in reinforcements as tensions escalated.
A group of people formed a barricade and blocked part of Nathan Road.
Some of them came close to the police line of defence and began throwing various objects, including glass bottles, at officers.
Shum yesterday did not contest his client’s presence at the scene.
But he argued the student’s mere presence would not be sufficient to impose criminal liability on her.
While she might have taken part in an unlawful assembly, Shum said, her alleged conduct did not amount to rioting, for which the punishment would be more severe.
“No one was actually harmed in the course of the event. No property was damaged,” he said, adding that no one had ever claimed ownership of the objects hurled at police.
The lawyer also contested the evidence presented by the prosecution. He said no “reasonable person” could conclude from the recorded footage that Hui, who was found among the crowds at the time, had actually thrown bottles at police.
“Police cameras didn’t capture the face of the woman [who threw bottles],” Shum said.
The hearing continues before District Court judge Sham Siu-man.