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Hong Kong copyright bill

Former Hong Kong auxiliary policeman jailed for ‘stupid and reckless’ Legco arson attack

Joe Yeung Yat-long was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson after the blaze outside the Legislative Council complex in December 2015

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 1:50pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 10:52pm

A former Hong Kong auxiliary policeman, who quit the force following the 2014 Occupy protests, was jailed for two years on Wednesday for setting fire to a bin outside the city’s Legislative Council complex.

Joe Yeung Yat-long, who was also a former president of the Shue Yan University’s student union, was earlier found guilty at the District Court of one count of conspiracy to commit arson. He was involved in setting fire to the rubbish bin on December 9, 2015, while legislators debated the controversial Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014, which some worried would restrict freedom of speech.

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Handing down what she stressed was a deterrent sentence, deputy judge Lily Wong Sze-lai said the offence was serious in that the premeditated plot could have inflicted injuries to people in the vicinity and more serious economic loss. It was lucky that no one was injured, she said.

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“No matter how noble one’s cause is, one should not resort to illegal means to express his or her demands,” she said, adding she needed to stop copycat behaviour. “No one is above the law.”

His co-defendant, Ip Cheuk-yin, 21, who admitted acting as lookout and pleaded guilty to the same charge early this year, was sent to a training centre to receive “rigorous” training.

The judge slammed the duo for using not just matches or lighters, but alcohol and a blowtorch in the arson in an area where there were members of the public and security officers.

The incident prompted a specialist team of officers to be deployed to tackle the incident, which Wong said was caused by the pair’s “stupid, selfish and reckless behaviours”.

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 the day, a large crowd gathered outside the Legco in Admiralty to protest the copyright bill, which was undergoing its second read. The bill is commonly called “Internet Article 23”, a reference to the section of the Basic Law which deals with national security legislation, amid concerns that it would restrict freedom of speech online.

That night, two men were spotted throwing a lit blowtorch into a rubbish bin, while Ip stood guard, video footage showed. The bin exploded three minutes after the trio left.

Yeung, Wong found, deliberately called and asked his friend, Lam Kwok-lun, to buy him isopropyl alcohol and a newspaper before the blast. Yeung also asked Lam to bring the items and meet him at the Legco complex that evening.

“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,” she said earlier.

She found that Yeung left the items inside the bin for someone to set fire to later.

The blowtorch’s 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.