Violence will never be tolerated in our law-abiding society
The prison sentences given to three people over last year’s Mong Kok riot are appropriate and a strong signal to would-be lawbreakers of the severe consequences of their actions
Meting out a sanction commensurate with the seriousness of an offence is a cardinal principle of the rule of law. This was expressly manifested yesterday when the District Court sentenced three people to three years’ imprisonment each in connection with the Mong Kok riot in February last year. The punishment has sent a strong signal that violence will not be tolerated in our law-abiding society.
Judge Sham Siu-man is right in saying that their violent behaviour could not be condoned and that a deterrent sentence was needed to convey the message that anyone participating in riots had to pay a price, which could sometimes be very great. He rejected the suggestion that the violence that broke out on the second day of the Lunar New Year last year did not amount to a riot. It appears that all three would lodge an appeal.
Those who were at the violent scene or have seen the recordings would probably share the judge’s views. They may even have an opinion on the sentence, as in the case of other high-profile trials. While members of the public are entitled to have views on such matters, it is for the court to ascertain whether the accused are guilty of any offences,and if so, how should they be punished.
The trio, two students and a cook, are the first to be convicted of rioting over the violent clashes. They threw glass bottles and a bamboo stick at the police.
In sentencing, the judge said the court had taken into account the level of violence, the scale of the riot and the number of people involved as well as whether the actions were premeditated. He said while an individual hurling a glass bottle might not attract a lengthy jail sentence, the same could not be said when 20 to 30 people were doing the same in a chaotic situation.
Noting that some police officers at the scene were only equipped with batons, it was pure luck that no officer was injured, he added.
Earlier, a 30-year-old waiter was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment for throwing water bottles and resisting police during the riot. The incident also saw another two men jailed for up to three months for throwing a rubbish bin and assaulting police. Appeals are now under way. We trust the proceedings will be handled under the standing judicial mechanism impartially.
Sparked by a crackdown on night hawkers during the Lunar New Year, the riot was seen as the culmination of discontent with the government following the unlawful Occupy protests in 2014. Be that as it may, violence is violence. Discontent is no excuse to disrupt public order. Whoever breaks the law must be punished accordingly. This is the way to ensure justice is done; and is seen to be done.