Hong Kong activist Edward Leung admits assaulting policeman during Mong Kok riot
Former convenor of pro-independence group denies other charges associated with 2016 unrest, along with four of his five co-defendants
A high-profile Hong Kong political activist admitted in court on Monday that he assaulted a policeman during violent clashes in one of the city’s busiest districts in February 2016.
Edward Leung Tin-kei admitted one count of assaulting a police officer at the High Court. One of his five co-defendants, Wong Ka-kui, pleaded guilty to taking part in a riot. Both were remanded in custody after the hearing.
But Leung and the four others denied a string of other charges accusing them of taking part in riots and unlawful assemblies.
“I plead not guilty,” the bespectacled activist, clad in a dark suit, said in the dock when asked to make a plea for charges other than the assault.
Leung, who had been on bail until Monday, appeared emotionless when he heard he would be spending the night in jail, putting the document he brought to court into his backpack and handing it to his lawyers.
He regained his smile when he waved goodbye to supporters in the public gallery. He took a last sip from his bottle of water and was taken away shortly before the lunch break. He will still be brought to court to face the rest of the charges.
The six are on trial over the unrest that took place in Mong Kok, a popular shopping hub, during the 2016 Lunar New Year and carried on into the early morning of the following day. It happened on Argyle Street, Shan Tung Street and Portland Street.
The trial, expected to last more than two months, began on Thursday last week, but has been subject to reporting restrictions. Madam Justice Anthea Pang Ko-kam briefly lifted the restrictions on Monday for the defendants’ pleas to be reported.
Leung, a former convenor of pro-independence group Hong Kong Indigenous, faces four charges: one count of inciting others to take part in a riot; two joint counts of rioting; and one of assaulting a police officer.
Spelling out the allegations against Leung and Wong, prosecutors said scores of people began to gather at Portland Street on the night of the unrest. Some wore blue T-shirts bearing the name of Hong Kong Indigenous, as well as masks, they said.
Over the course of the night, they occupied roads, charged police cordons and threw objects at police officers, injuring four officers in what amounted to a series of rioting acts, prosecutors told the court with allegations tailor-made for Wong’s guilty plea.
At about 2am, the prosecutors said, protesters began to throw obstacles – such as rubbish bins, crates, and traffic cones – into Argyle Street to block the major thoroughfare.
Wong threw a foam box at one of the officers, the prosecutors said, as the crowd began to pour into the street. He missed the officer, but later fell on top of him. He was subsequently subdued and arrested.
The court heard police regained control of the street briefly until the crowd grew bigger and began throwing glass bottles and rubbish bins at officers.
One policeman fired two warning shots into the air to keep the crowd under control, the court heard.
Leung, the prosecutors said, threw the top part of a rubbish bin towards the officers’ direction. He later attacked a police sergeant when the policeman was trying to stop a man about to throw a brick.
“He threw a white plastic bottle at [the sergeant] and kicked him with his right leg,” barrister Francis Cheng, prosecuting, said.
Leung also hit the sergeant’s back with a wooden board, he added, before he was arrested later that night.
The sergeant, who ended up with a swollen ear and cuts on his knees, was granted four days of sick leave. Another policeman injured during the night got 113 days of sick leave.
Lee Nok-man, Lo Kin-man, and Lam Ngo-hin each denied one count of rioting, while Lam denied a further count of taking part in an unlawful assembly.
Lam Lun-hing denied three counts of rioting. The court granted the four bail.
The trial continues before Justice Pang on Monday.