Hong Kong independence activist faces new assault charge in Mong Kok riot trial
Development comes as justice minister refutes claims Beijing engineered move to jail three student activists in separate criminal case
A Hong Kong pro-independence activist will face a new charge accusing him of assaulting a police officer during a riot, as part of a high-profile trial set for next year.
The additional charge against Edward Leung Tin-kei, spokesman for Hong Kong Indigenous, was added at the High Court on Saturday on top of three riot-related charges Leung already faces.
The development came as Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung refuted claims that Beijing engineered a move to jail three student activists, including Occupy movement leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, in a separate criminal case.
“Categorically and very clearly, I can tell you that the [central government] was absolutely not involved in this incident,” Yuen said, when a pupil raised the question at a forum on the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
The localist walked alongside fellow Hong Kong Indigenous member Ray Wong Toi-yeung, who faces other charges. The trial has been scheduled for January 18 next year.
Another co-defendant, Lam Ngo-hin, faces an additional count of taking part in an unlawful assembly, according to lawyers who attended a closed-door pre-trial session on Saturday.
The charges relate to a riot that erupted in the heart of Mong Kok, one of Hong Kong’s busiest districts, on the night of February 8, 2016. Various prosecution cases were brought following the incident, which began as a demonstration of support for unlicensed hawkers as they operated in the popular shopping hub on the first day of Lunar New Year.
As of Saturday, Leung, Wong, Lam and five others faced a combined total of 10 charges ranging from rioting to incitement.
The other five defendants are Lam Lun-hing, Lee Nok-man, Li Tung-sing, Lo Kin-man, and Wong Ka-kui.
Leung is to face one joint count with Wong of inciting others to riot, two joint counts of rioting with Wong and others, and the new count of assaulting a police officer.
For his part, Wong faces one charge of inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly alone, apart from the joint incitement charge, and, with Leung, one count of rioting.
The riot charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, according to the Public Order Ordinance.
The defendants were expected to return to court on December 9 for another pre-trial session.
Meanwhile, at the University of Hong Kong, the justice minister took a tough question at a forum for secondary students which elicited applause from many attendees and an awkward smile from Yuen.
At the event organised by the Law Society, a pupil asked him whether Beijing was behind the jailing of Wong and his fellow student activists Alex Chow Yong-kang and Nathan Law Kwun-chung. The three were convicted in August of various offences for taking part in a protest two days before the larger pro-democracy Occupy movement of 2014 kicked off.
They were initially spared imprisonment, but were jailed after justice department lawyers appealed, arguing the lower court had been too lenient in its sentencing.
Aside from denying Beijing’s involvement, Yuen said he had not commented directly on the matter, claiming he had to consider the importance of keeping his discussions with colleagues confidential.