Hong Kong judge acquits two, convicts three over Mong Kok riot
Jobless man and travel agent walk free after prosecution fails to prove they took part in the violence
Two men accused of taking part in the Mong Kok riot last year that shook the popular shopping district walked free on Monday as prosecutors failed to prove they were involved.
They were the first people charged with rioting over the Lunar New Year violence to be acquitted. But three other defendants in the District Court case faced possible jail time after judge Frankie Yiu Fun-che found they had carried glass bottles and hurled bricks at police during what he described as a “rather intimidating scene”.
Applause erupted in the packed courtroom, with some people in the public gallery shouting “yes” when the acquittals were announced.
Mitigation submissions and sentencing for the three were adjourned until August 7, pending reports. Rioting is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment.
Three men and a woman were previously jailed for between 36 and 57 months for taking part in the same riot, which escalated from a hawker control operation gone wrong and ended with more than 100 police officers injured.
The present 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 sides were separated by burning objects.
All five men were arrested on site. While delivery workers Chris Yung Tsz-hin, 18, and Law Ho-yin, 21, had argued it was a case of mistaken identity, the judge found they were properly identified in footage of the frontline of the stand-off, with glass bottles in their hands as if they were ready to strike.
Yiu also found that worker Lin Yun-faat, 25, was without doubt a participant when he threw bricks at officers. Lin himself had admitted hurling bricks four or five times during a police interview that he failed to strike out from evidence.
Yiu said there was a substantive breach of peace that morning and the scene amounted to a riot, with the men sharing a collective aim of defying police officers in their attempt to restore order.
Together the three men were convicted of a joint rioting charge.
But the judge sided with the defence in acquitting Leo Chan Siu-kwan, 47, who is unemployed, and travel agent Sung Kwan-wo, 27, of rioting because he could not ascertain their roles and behaviour in the protest.
Chan, who was arrested after he ran away during a police chase, claimed he was filming events. He had testified that since the Occupy pro-democracy protests in 2014 he had recorded more than 200 public order events as a citizen journalist.
In January, a wedding photographer was similarly acquitted of assaulting police during the riot after a lower court found the police might have misidentified the attacker.
Outside court, Chan said he might lodge a complaint against the sergeant who testified against him.
“I’d like to ask [the sergeant], how can you face your family and children after committing such despicable behaviour?” he told reporters. “Do you have a conscience?”
Chan also said he did not feel the verdict had brought him justice, given the impact of the prosecution on his future. But he said he would not be deterred from filming again.
“I won’t stop because of the risk,” he said. “I won’t run away from police any more.”