First convicted Mong Kok rioter to avoid jail sent to training centre instead
Delivery man’s two co-defendants get three years each in prison for wielding glass bottles and throwing bricks during 2016 disturbances
In a first for the criminal cases emanating from last year’s Mong Kok disturbances, a rioter was on Monday spared jail and sent instead to a training centre.
The man’s two co-defendants were jailed for three years for carrying glass bottles and hurling bricks at police during the disturbance in the popular Kowloon shopping district over the Lunar New Year period.
Judge Frankie Yiu Fun-che said rioting is a serious crime, as it can quickly spread and cause widespread damage in a city as small and crowded as Hong Kong.
But he acknowledged the three men’s involvement was not premeditated and the level of violence was moderate.
He sentenced delivery man Law Ho-yin, 21, and worker Lin Yun-faat, 26, to three years in prison.
But he sent 19-year-old delivery man Chris Yung Tsz-hin to a training centre.
The Mong Kok riot began on the night of February 8 last year, and dragged on into the next day. It escalated from a hawker control operation gone wrong and ended with more than 100 police officers injured.
Yung is the first person convicted of rioting that night not sent to prison.
Three men and a woman were previously jailed for between three years and four years and nine months for riot. The court heard they hurled glass bottles and a bamboo stick as well as setting a taxi on fire.
And last year an 18-year-old waiter got 18 months’ probation after pleading guilty to the lesser count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, for hitting a police officer with a hurled brick.
Law, Lin and Yung were convicted last month on one joint count of riot, an offence punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment.
The three men’s case centred on clashes between police and 100 protesters at the junction of Soy Street and Fa Yuen Street at about 6.45am on February 9, where the two crowds were separated by burning objects.
The District Court heard all three were stood on the front line of the riot. Lin threw bricks at officers, while the other two wielded glass bottles as though ready to strike.
The judge initially adopted a starting point of three years and six months for the sentence. But he reduced that by six months after noting Law did nothing beyond holding the glass bottles, and Lin had a good background.
Prosecutors initially mounted a case against five men arrested at the scene, but Yiu acquitted the other two, whose involvement was never proven.
Sentencing reports recommended the training centre for Yung, whose counsel revealed that he had had behavioural issues since he was a child, leading to past convictions.
“It remains uncertain if he threw the glass bottle,” Yung’s lawyer Cheung Yiu-leung said. “Considering the [sentencing] report recommended a training centre order... instead of sending him to an adult prison, I’d suggest Your Lordship adopt the report recommendation.”
Convicts can spend anywhere between six months and three years at training centres, which are intended to rehabilitate people between the ages of 14 and 20. Terms there are followed by three years’ supervision.
Michael Leung, for Law, revealed the probation officer did not recommend a training centre due to his client’s age.
Lin’s lawyer Douglas Kwok King-hin asked for a sentence of no more than two years for his client, citing the historical precedent that even the leader of the 1967 riots got no more than that, despite it being a more serious riot involving home-made bombs.
The court also heard that Lin, who had no prior convictions, had no affiliation with any political parties or pressure groups, and knew no one at the riot.
Lin wrote in mitigation that he went to the scene after seeing police pointing guns at civilians and firing shots into the air. Kwok said Lin’s actions were influenced by the atmosphere at the time, and he had not intended to breach the peace.