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A video capture shows men in white armed with wooden sticks chasing and assaulting people at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2019. Photo: Handout

Hong Kong protests: 7 guilty of Yuen Long MTR station assaults jailed for up to 7 years

  • Group found guilty of taking part in attacks that left 45 people injured in July 2019
  • Merchant Tang Wai-sum, 62, slapped with heaviest rioting sentence to date, having been convicted of two counts of rioting and two for wounding
Brian Wong

A Hong Kong court has handed down jail terms of up to seven years, the heaviest sentence for the crime of rioting to date, to seven men who were part of a stick-wielding mob that stormed a railway station to assault protesters and commuters two years ago.

Thursday’s stiff sentencing ended the first trial in one of the most divisive chapters of the anti-government protests of 2019, when 100 white-clad men with rattan and wooden sticks injured 45 people at Yuen Long MTR station on the night of July 21.

There were angry responses from spectators in the court’s public gallery when the sentences were read out. Some people who carried the national flag were seen cursing the judge after he left, while others called the ruling unfair and said it represented “a decline in the rule of law”.

The sentencing came a day after the Department of Justice revealed it was seeking to overturn the acquittal of an eighth defendant after the court’s verdict last month.

Protesters outside Hong Kong’s District Court on Thursday offered support to the defendants in the Yuen Long attack case. Photo: Edmond So

Judge Eddie Yip Chor-man called the incident a “senseless” and “indiscriminate” attack, and said the men in white had displaced the role of police with their own armed forces.

They had even abused the national flag, he said, by attaching it to the weapons they used to hurt their innocent victims.

Not only had they assaulted people in the station’s concourse, the mob had also gone after dozens of passengers stranded on a train at the height of the chaos, effectively detaining them with their threat of violence, Yip said.

“Hong Kong is a society governed by the rule of law,” he added. “Such random and lawless attacks have instilled extreme fear in citizens. The court must pass deterrent sentences on the abusers.”

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The 24-day trial heard the men in white first launched the attack inside the station at 10.40pm on July 21. The assailants struck again near Exit J early the next day, followed by another incident in the station’s concourse and the connected Yoho Mall.

Merchant Tang Wai-sum’s seven years behind bars represents the heaviest sentence handed down for a rioting case to date. The 62-year-old was convicted of two counts of rioting and two other wounding charges for attacking protesters outside the station, and instructing the mob to go after victims inside the facility on July 22.

Electrician Choi Lap-ki, 41, was jailed for six years over one count of rioting and wounding with intent, after he was caught spilling liquid on protesters and battering a man on a staircase in the first round of attacks.

His co-defendant, cable worker Wong Ying-kit, 50, was spotted yelling at protesters at the station’s concourse on July 21, while another accused, 63-year-old village representative Tang Ying-bun was found carrying a stick and roaming the station along with the assailants.

Ng Wai-nam, convicted of rioting and conspiracy to wound, was sentenced to four years in jail on Thursday. Photo: Dickson Lee

The duo were jailed for 42 months and 45 months, respectively, over the same charges as Choi.

Two merchants – Lam Koon-leung, 50, and Lam Kai-ming, 45 – were each sentenced to 56 months behind bars after pleading guilty to rioting for their roles in the first incident.

Driver Ng Wai-nam, who was convicted of rioting and conspiracy to wound for using sticks to attack a group of men dressed in black outside Ying Lung Wai village on July 22, was jailed for four years.

Lam Kai-ming, who earlier told the court he had reflected on his behaviour, was heard swearing in the dock before being taken away by prison officers.

A dozen supporters displayed banners outside the court, claiming it was not a crime to “defend” one’s homeland.


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Hours after the ruling, Tang Wai-sum’s wife offered a different picture of the attack in a press conference held by a group of people sympathetic towards the assailants.

The woman, who only identified herself as Mrs Tang, said the merchant had merely gone to the scene to “take a look” and “protect his home”, after the barbecue site that he operated next to the station was purportedly trashed by an unknown group hurling glass bottles and rubbish bins.

“My husband was only protecting his fellow villagers,” the woman said. “He loves his homeland, and he wanted to protect the village chief.”

She opted not to provide her side of the story in court, however, claiming her husband would “die in the hands of the judge” regardless of her presence in the witness box.

The woman added she could not speak on behalf of her husband on whether he would lodge an appeal.

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The attack was a watershed moment in the protest movement, with police becoming the target of public anger for arriving late at the scene. A police spokesman on Thursday reiterated that the force had noted the huge public interest in the case and had “strenuously” investigated the matter.

The Democratic Party said police should press more charges against other suspects in the case, stressing the mastermind and most of the participants were still at large.

Responding to verbal abuses directed at the judge over Thursday’s ruling, a judiciary spokeswoman said all court cases were handled in accordance with the law and that any attempt to pressure judicial officers should be reprimanded.

The seven defendants all had brushes with the law. Some were previously convicted of drink driving, whereas others committed more serious offences, such as robbery and drug trafficking.

Wong, who co-founded a cable construction company, had occasionally been barred from entering work sites since the incident, and had been forced to handle office matters only which largely affected his income, the court heard in mitigation.

Tang Ying-bun, who represented the Hoi Lik Pui village in Pat Heung for 11 years, had actively taken part in voluntary work and contributed to the improvement of the village’s networking systems, his lawyer told the court.

Lawyers for three other accused, Lam Kai-ming, Tang Wai-sum and Ng, all said their clients had taken great care of their families, but Yip said that alone was not a mitigating factor.

Transport worker Wong Chi-wing was cleared of rioting and wounding with intent. Photo: Dickson Lee

The judge eventually knocked three months off Tang’s initial sentence of four years in jail, but refused to offer the same leniency to his accomplices.

Transport worker Wong Chi-wing, 56, was cleared of rioting and wounding with intent last month after the judge found insufficient evidence to suggest he was one of the mobsters.

However, the judge said the suspect drew suspicion upon himself as he had kept the shoes of an assailant at his home.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman on Wednesday said it had decided to lodge an appeal against Wong’s acquittal. A successful appeal would subject the transport worker to a retrial.

Police have arrested 63 people aged 18 to 61 in relation to the July 21 incident. Fifteen suspects, including the eight defendants, have been charged with rioting and wounding offences.

The other seven, including former opposition lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, will stand trial on rioting charges in March 2023.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Yuen Long attackers given prison terms of up to 7 years