HK protests: 5 students get up to 59 months’ jail for rioting, flouting mask ban during turmoil at Chinese University

20-Oct-2021 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 5:02 AM Print This Post

Five current or former Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) students have been jailed for as long as 59 months for rioting and flouting a ban on wearing masks at public gatherings during a violent protest on the campus almost two years ago.

Tuesday’s ruling marked the second time a judge has handed down jail sentences over clashes that took place at the Sha Tin campus five months into the 2019 anti-government protests.

Riot police fire tear gas to disperse protesters outside Chinese University on November 11, 2019. Photo: Felix Wong

Riot police fire tear gas to disperse protesters outside Chinese University on November 11, 2019. Photo: Felix Wong

Delivering her reasons for the sentence at West Kowloon Court, deputy Judge Kathie Cheung Kit-yee said the five accused must have deliberately remained at the scene either to take part in the violence or abet their comrades in the act.

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The lack of evidence to prove the defendants’ level of involvement was not a reason to lessen their ordeal behind bars, she said, as all participants in a riot shared the same culpability regardless of their roles in it.

“Hong Kong is a place which upholds the rule of law, and a peaceful and tranquil community which shows no tolerance towards aimless acts that seriously disturb the peace, especially those targeting law enforcement officers,” Cheung said.

Four men Lau Chun-yuk, Ko Chi-pan and Hui Yi-chuen, all 23, and Chan Lik-sik, 20 were each jailed for 57 months. The only female defendant, Foo Hoi-ching, 23, received 59 months in prison. She was free on police bail in another protest-related case when she was arrested for the present one.

Lau, Chan and Foo, who have yet to obtain their respective degrees, are likely to be forced to discontinue their studies for failing to fulfil graduation requirements within the maximum study period of seven years.

The protest arose from citywide marches on November 11 that saw demonstrators cripple the Tolo Highway and nearby MTR East Rail line by hurling objects from a bridge near CUHK’s rear entrance. Police later dispersed protesters and cordoned off the crossing.

The five students were arrested near the bridge at about 2.30pm, after protesters hurled 23 petrol bombs and other hard objects at police.

Officers later seized a screwdriver and the metal head of a hammer from Foo, and a spanner from Hui.

The five were each convicted last month of a count of rioting and another of using facial coverings during an unlawful assembly. Foo and Hui were also found guilty of possession of offensive weapons or instruments fit for unlawful purposes.

Foo, a nursing student, remained defiant during mitigation on Tuesday, saying she was not sorry for what she had done and found Cheung’s earlier verdict unreasonable.

She maintained the riot charge under the Public Order Ordinance was a political tool to suppress dissent, and judges had played a part by widening the offence’s application to potentially peaceful protesters.

“The law under an authoritarian regime is nothing but a violent means to regulate people’s behaviour without shedding blood,” Foo wrote in a letter to the judge. “The court is not a place to deliver justice. This is just a place which superficially expresses concerns for public order without casting an eye on the root causes of the social divide.

“If the court, upon hearing my submission, takes the view that a hefty sentence can make me regret and reflect, then suit yourself.”

Lawyers representing Lau and Chan said the two men had been diagnosed with depression during the proceedings that lasted nearly two years, and they still needed to take medication to this day.

The court also heard that Ko and Hui, who had graduated, had encountered difficulties finding jobs or starting their own businesses because of the case.



Category: Hong Kong

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