Hong Kong court convicts nine more over 2016 Mong Kok riot
The guilty verdicts increase the number of convictions to 18 and include teenagers who threw bricks at police and a 70-year-old who took too long to flee the scene
Nine more men were on Wednesday found guilty of rioting in Hong Kong’s popular shopping district of Mong Kok during Lunar New Year two years ago, taking the number of such convictions to 18.
Among them were teenagers who hurled more than a dozen bricks at police officers, “casual participants” who joined in the mayhem “out of fun”, and a 70-year-old retiree who moved at “turtle speed” while trying to flee the scene.
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The West Kowloon Court heard each of them, hailing from diverse backgrounds, participated in varying degrees “in furtherance of the riot”, during which flying bricks and bamboo sticks were used across four major roads and 47 officers injured after a hawker control operation turned ugly on February 8, 2016.
Prosecutors enlisted more than 200 witnesses, including officers who recalled fearing and fleeing for their lives as masked “thugs” charged at outnumbered colleagues and a stranded police car.
The long-awaited verdict on Wednesday concluded a marathon trial that began last June and completed submissions in October, with district judge Kwok Wai-kin handing down a 382-page ruling after four adjournments.
There was no visible reaction from any of the men, now aged between 19 and 72, when the guilty verdict on 11 charges was announced. The charge of rioting carries a penalty of up to 10 years behind bars, but is capped at seven years for this case as it was transferred from the District Court.
They are: waiter Mo Jia-tao, 19; cleaner Chung Chi-wah, 30; actor Anthony Ho Kam-sum, 37; waiter Fok Ting-ho, 24; logistics worker Tang King-chung, 29; electrician Lam Wing-wong, 21; renovation worker Yep Chi-fung, 19; and Chan Wo-cheung, 72, and Li Cheuk-hin, 21, who are both unemployed.
All of them will be sentenced pending follow-up reports on May 23, alongside co-defendant Ng Ting-kai, 25, who earlier pleaded guilty to one count of rioting on the first day of trial.
An 11th defendant, student Lee Sin-yi, has absconded.
The case is closely linked with that of waiter Tang Ho-yin, 26, who was jailed for 34 months in April after he admitted to hurling a single brick at police “for fun” at the same time and location where the others had rioted.
Director of public prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin SC explained that Tang was not tried together with the others as the case had already been moved to the District Court by the time he was arrested.
A number of defendants in the present case had similarly told police they participated out of fun, the court heard.
A voice message sent by Fok said, “Play together, hurl [objects] at police, it’s so much fun.” Another from Tang said, “I’m in Mong Kok playing in a riot, come quick.”
But the judge stressed that participating “out of fun” was not a defence as individual motives did not matter once prosecutors proved beyond reasonable doubt that the defendants had taken part in an unlawful assembly – of three or more participants – that escalated into a riot.
The judge also threw out attempts by seven of the defendants to strike out confessions they made to police after their arrests.
Among them, Li was convicted solely on his confession. “Ah Sir, I just wanted to have fun. I saw people hurl bricks and I followed. The brick I hurled landed on the ground, no one was hit,” he had said.
The judge said he had repeatedly viewed the footage admitted into evidence in playbacks down to 0.03 second per frame to identify the defendants captured on camera by their special features, such as Mo’s colourful striped jacket, Chung’s protruding ears and the lump at the corner of Ho’s right eye.
But the judge cleared Mo of one of the three rioting charges he was facing after finding the waiter could have acted alone in mounting his attack at Soy Street.
Chan was also acquitted of a charge of assaulting police because the attacker could not be identified.
Six men and a woman have already been jailed for 34 to 57 months for rioting.
Five other men, including the alleged riot instigator Edward Leung Tin-kei, are now facing trial at the High Court. A smaller trial, involving two men, will start later this year.