Former separatist leader Edward Leung found not guilty of additional Mong Kok riot charge

23-Mar-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

One of the faces of Hong Kong’s small pro-independence movement was found not guilty on Friday of rioting during unrest that gripped a popular shopping district three years ago.

Despite the acquittal, Edward Leung Tin-kei, formerly the spokesman of political group Hong Kong Indigenous, would head back to prison, where he was already serving time for his role in the mayhem that rocked Mong Kok in February 2016.

He was convicted of one count of rioting and pleaded guilty to another of assaulting a police officer during an earlier marathon trial that ended in June last year. Leung was serving a six-year jail term while in the dock for the present trial, which stemmed from the jury’s failure to reach a verdict on an earlier riot charge.

On Friday, the five women and four men who served as jurors returned a verdict of not guilty, following the second trial that began in late November.

Prosecutors said the night of chaos of February 8, 2016 which carried into the next morning began with a row on Portland Street between hawker control officers and street food vendors, backed up by their supporters.

The incident was dubbed the “fish ball revolution” as the vendors were selling the local snack at the time, though some argued it went beyond support for the hawkers.

Pundits said it was a more radical means of fighting the government, after a more peaceful pro-democracy campaign, 2014′s Occupy protests, failed to move the local and Beijing governments.

The scuffles quickly escalated into violent clashes, during which angry mobs hurled objects at police, who used pepper spray and batons to disperse them. The clashes spread to neighbouring streets including Nathan Road, Soy Street and Fa Yuen Street.

Protesters set fires in the roads and attacked officers with bricks, wooden crates and other items. A policeman drew his gun and fired two warning shots into the air as he tried to protect an unconscious colleague.

Last year, Leung, now 27, and his co-defendants, technician Vincent Lam Ngo-hin, 23, and Lee Nok-man, 21, unemployed, were put on trial for their parts in the incident. While Leung was acquitted of charges accusing him of inciting the unrest, the jury found him guilty of taking part.

No British-style probe for Mong Kok riot, Carrie Lam says

But jurors at the time failed to reach a verdict on a joint riot charge that involved the three, for their acts at an earlier stage of the incident in Portland Street. So they were put on trial again in November, with a new co-defendant, Yung Wai-yip, a 34-year-old delivery worker who denied four counts of rioting, and one each of taking part in an unlawful assembly, inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly and assaulting a police officer.

On Friday, Leung’s co-defendants Lam and Lee were each found not guilty of one count of riot by a 7-2 verdict.

But Yung Wai-yip, another co-defendant, was found guilty of two counts of rioting and one of assaulting a police office by a 8-1 verdict. He was acquitted of two other counts of rioting and one of inciting an unlawful assembly. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on an additional charge on whether he also took part in an unlawful assembly on the day.

A fourth co-defendant, Yuen Chi-kui, 28, pleaded guilty at the start of the trial to two counts of rioting and one of arson.

The court was adjourned to April 4 for mitigation on Yung and Yuen. Yung was remanded in custody.

The prosecutors said Leung took part in the riot at Portland Street by encouraging the crowd through a megaphone. He also took part in the clashes, they said.

But Leung told the jury during the trial he was only trying to ease the tension between the police and the crowd at the time.

A staunch advocate of independence for the city, Leung is best known for standing in the 2016 Legislative Council by-elections. Although he lost to a moderate democrat, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu of the Civic Party, he managed to rake in a respectable 66,524 votes.

But since then the Hong Kong government has been banning candidates with separatist beliefs and also those who advocate self-determination from taking part in elections, as Beijing steps up its rhetoric to stem pro-independence sentiment in the city.


Category: Hong Kong

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