A nine-person jury has unanimously found localist Edward Leung guilty of rioting over his participation in the 2016 Mong Kok unrest, but not guilty of inciting a riot. He faces up to a decade behind bars.
Leung and four others faced rioting and other charges in relation to the protests that broke out over Chinese New Year that year, which were triggered when authorities attempted to clear street hawkers in Mong Kok.
The jury found him guilty of one charge of rioting, but could not reach a majority verdict on another rioting charge.
Leung has been remanded since January, when he pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer. But he and four co-defendants – Lee Nok-man, Lo Kin-man, Lam Ngo-hin, and Lam Lun-hing – denied charges of rioting. The last defendant, Wong Ka-kui, earlier pleaded guilty to one count of rioting.
The jury retired on Wednesday to consider verdicts. On Friday morning, the jurors said that they could not reach a majority verdict for several charges. Judge Anthea Pang asked them to continue with their deliberation.
A jury of nine must reach a 7-2 majority for there to be a valid verdict either way.
Lo found guilty
All nine jurors found the third defendant Lo Kin-man guilty of rioting. However, they could not reach a majority verdict for the rioting charges against Lee Nok-man and Lam Ngo-hin.
They unanimously acquitted Lam Ngo-hin of participating in an unlawful assembly and cleared three counts of rioting against fifth defendant Lam Lun-hing.
The court arranged protection for the jury and banned members of the public from entering the courtroom after the judiciary’s complaints office received an email from an unidentified person around noon on Friday with a photo of four juror’s faces attached.
On Monday, Judge Anthea Pang urged the jury not to be influenced by their political stances, and to put sympathies and biases aside. She also reminded them not to take into consideration any reports in the media.
Rioting carries a maximum sentence of ten years’ imprisonment under the Public Order Ordinance, while the maximum penalty for assaulting police officers is two years in prison under the Offences against the Person Ordinance.
UK watchdog Hong Kong Watch condemned the verdict, saying it “shows that the Public Order Ordinance is urgently in need of reform because it is being used to disproportionately punish political protestors in Hong Kong.”
The High Court will hand down sentences at a later date.
Additional reporting: Kris Cheng and Ellie Ng.