The District Court has convicted three people and acquitted two others on Monday of rioting during last February’s Mong Kok clashes, bringing the total number of rioting convictions related to the protest to eight.
Chris Yung Tsz-hin, 18, Law Ho-yin, 20, and Lin Yun-faat, 25, were jointly charged with one count of rioting. They were convicted of the charge. Meanwhile, Leo Chan Siu-kwan, 47, and Sung Kwan-wo, 27, were each acquitted of one count of rioting.
Upon hearing the acquittal, some audience members clapped inside the courtroom. They then gathered outside the room and congratulated Chan and Sung.
Chan said after the hearing that he would have “lost everything” had he been convicted of rioting. He said he has two young sons, and is responsible for looking after his family members.
All defendants denied the allegation earlier, contending that they were not present during the clashes or that the event did not constitute a riot.
Judge Frankie Yiu Fun-che held Monday that Yung, Law and Lin jointly participated in a riot.
The court heard that Yung and Law were filmed holding two glass bottles near the front of the crowd. But the defence lawyers questioned whether the footage was sufficient for identification purposes, as the persons in the footage were wearing surgical masks and the prosecution relied only on clothing to make its argument.
Judge Yiu held that the pair were the ones filmed in the footage, as they wore the same shirts, trousers and sneakers when they were arrested together an hour after the act was filmed. He said it is “difficult to imagine” such a coincidence.
Meanwhile, Lin was accused of throwing bricks at police officers. He denied he was involved in a riot, but Judge Yiu held that Lin was “undoubtedly” participating in a riot on the basis that he was filmed among some 100 people at a standoff for around 10 minutes.
The three defendants were remanded in custody, awaiting a sentencing hearing scheduled for August 7.
Meanwhile, Judge Yiu said the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Chan and Sung took part in a riot.
During the trial, the prosecution relied on police testimonies saying that Sung and Chan threw bricks at police, though video footage did not capture the action.
Chan said he was only documenting the clashes as a citizen journalist. The founder of Resistance Live Media told the court earlier that his platform had posted Chan’s footage on numerous occasions, and that he had never seen Chan interfere in protests, according to Ming Pao.
But Judge Yiu did not accept Chan’s explanation, saying that he should not have run away and put aside his camera if he was only there to document the incident.
Nonetheless, the judge said the testimony given by a police officer that Chan was holding a mobile phone and a brick as he ran away was “not impossible but not easy.” He said Chan would have thrown the brick earlier if he intended to do so.
Judge Yiu said he had to weigh the evidence carefully as the prosecution only relied on the testimony of one officer. Hence, he said, while it was “unwise” for Chan to run away from officers, the prosecution did not provide strong evidence that he was involved in a riot.
Chan said after the hearing that he had “learned a lesson” and that he will not run away from police in the future.
Meanwhile, Sung was arrested hours after the alleged offence. He was photographed being arrested with blood on his face. During the trial, the prosecution and defence showed footage of Sung during his arrest, but none of him appearing to be involved in the clashes.
Sung’s lawyer argued earlier that police officers used excessive force when arresting Sung. He said news footage from Now TV showed four to five offers appearing to hit Sung on his head, back and limbs with their batons. A sergeant involved in the arrest denied the allegation.
Judge Yiu did not mention the point when acquitting Sung. Instead, he said there was no footage to support the charge.
Five people have been convicted of rioting in relation to the Mong Kok unrest before Monday’s verdict. Last month, a 25-year-old man pleaded guilty to rioting. The District Court will decide on his sentence after hearing the cases of nine others in the same trial.
In April, a 32-year-old technician was sentenced to four years and nine months in jail for rioting and arson during the event.
Rioting carries a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment under the Public Order Ordinance. However, the District Court is only allowed to mete out sentences with a maximum length of seven years.