Hong Kong technician found guilty of rioting and setting taxi on fire in Mong Kok unrest
Yeung Ka-lun, 32, was identified by news footage and photographs taken by a resident
A computer technician is facing jail time after becoming the first rioter to be convicted of arson over the violent clashes between protesters and police in Mong Kok last year.
Yeung Ka-lun’s defence had questioned whether he was the man seen in video footage of the riot setting fire to a taxi at the start of the Lunar New Year, but the court identified him by his protruding teeth.
Three others were each jailed for three years last month over the riot, which began with a hawker control operation gone wrong and ended with more than 100 officers being injured and 80 arrests.
District Court judge Anthony Kwok Kai-on warned on Monday that imprisonment was inevitable as he remanded Yeung, 32, in custody, before sentencing on next Monday.
Rioting is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment, and arson carries a maximum penalty of life behind bars, but the District Court can only hand down a maximum sentence of seven years.
Defence counsel Paul Wu called for a concurrent sentence on the two charges as he explained that the arson attack was an extension of Yeung’s participation in the riot.
He noted that the fire was not serious and the vehicle was quickly repaired. The damage cost HK$6,400 to repair.
“He is not a violent person,” he said of Yeung, who had already pleaded not guilty to one count of riot and another of arson.
He was arrested on February 26, more than two weeks after what the judge ruled as a riot at Soy Street in the early hours of February 9 last year.
The case centred on whether Yeung was the bespectacled man filmed committing arson as his face was partially obscured by a black cap.
Prosecutors relied on Now TV news footage and high-resolution photographs taken by a Mong Kok resident to identify Yeung.
They also seized his sister’s wedding photos from 2009 and family photos as well as his job application forms for the court’s reference – all of which showed Yeung’s habit of wearing a pair of glasses that closely resembled those of the pictured man.
However, Yeung stood trial last month without glasses on. To picture what he would look like, the judge explained that he drew black rectangular frames around Yeung’s eyes in his mug shots and found a resemblance.
While the defence argued that Yeung’s appearance was extremely ordinary with no striking features, the court observed that he had two protruding front teeth similar to the man in the photos.
“The defendant is the man pictured,” the judge concluded.
The court also noted there were “odd coincidences”, such as Yeung obtaining a new Octopus card a day after the riot, and the absence of glasses and a computer in his home despite his occupation. Their cumulative effect led to only one conclusion – Yeung was attempting to cover his tracks.
Yeung had no prior criminal record. He did not react to the verdict, but his family members were seen crying around the dock once the hearing ended before leaving in a taxi.