Five Hong Kong men were in court on Tuesday to face charges over last weekend’s protest in the north of the city, all but one of them being denied bail.
They were among 14 people arrested after hundreds of thousands gathered in Yuen Long to decry mob violence at the district’s railway station on July 21, despite police objecting to the protest.
Among them was social worker Lau Ka-wah, a 23-year-old member of the Reclaiming Social Work Movement, who accused police of using unnecessary force during his arrest and complained of lengthy detention before his hearing over one count of obstructing police.
Also in court were clerk Chu Tsz-wan, 23, cook Vincent Chu Chun-hoi, 18, and students Liu Hui-fung, 19, and Yung Wai-shing, 25, who were each charged with one count of possessing an offensive weapon in a public place.
Their first hearing at Fanling Court drew a full house to the public gallery, with many family members, friends and supporters left standing while dozens more waited for news outside the courtroom.
Lau, who was sent to hospital immediately after his arrest on Saturday night, limped into the dock wearing hospital garb and a neck brace. The court heard he had sprained his neck and injured his right eye.
The four other men, all dressed in black, stood shoulder to shoulder while two police offers guarded them closely.
Prosecutors alleged that Lau obstructed constable Chan Pui-kit at On Lok Road – near Tai Cheung Street – in Yuen Long, as police tried to disperse a crowd of about 150 people at 7.20pm.
Lau was accused of ignoring police orders to stay away from the cordon and using his body to block officers from moving forward.
The other defendants were accused of carrying offensive weapons without lawful authority or reasonable excuse at the nearby Long Lok Road.
Court documents revealed the alleged weapons included an extendable baton, two foldable military knives, an air pistol with charging cylinder, three magazines, a catapult and bags of steel balls and BB bullets.
None of them was required to enter a plea as prosecutors needed five weeks for further investigations, which would involve gathering and reviewing video footage as well as examining the alleged weapons.
All of them applied for bail, but the prosecution objected.
Only Lau secured release, on a HK$2,000 (US$255) cash bail, with the condition that he stay in Hong Kong and reside in his reported address.
Acting principal magistrate Don So Man-lung warned: “If you commit offences of the same or similar nature, including unlawful assembly, the court will revoke your bail until your trial.”
“Understood,” Lau replied.
Both cases will return to the same court in the first week of September.
I very much believe the police are only using me to warn other social workers and guardians of young people against setting foot at [protests]
Lau Ka-wah, defendant
Before Lau left the court, his lawyer Billy Li On-yin, convenor of Progressive Lawyers Group, took the opportunity to ask why police had detained Lau for more than 64 hours after his arrest at 7.25pm on Saturday.
Lau said police had not questioned him since 11pm on Sunday but did not charge him until 7pm the next day.
Prosecutors said officers needed more time for investigation, and pointed out that Lau did not lodge an official complaint.
So said his court was not the appropriate place to handle complaints against police. He suggested the defence lawyers could pressure the police by demanding answers at the station report room if a similar situation arose again.
Outside court, Lau cried as he told reporters how officers kicked his head and used batons to beat it “like a golf ball” after he had been restrained.
He also recounted how he had been handled by some 50 officers in the past few days.
“While in custody I had no personal space. The police kept an eye on me and I could only stare at the ceiling … Time passed by very slowly,” Lau said, his voice breaking. “I very much believe the police are only using me to warn other social workers and guardians of young people against setting foot at [protests].”
The other nine people arrested in Yuen Long on Saturday were either released on bail or released. Those on bail included Max Chung Kin-ping, 39, who was arrested on suspicion of organising an unauthorised assembly. He is required to report to Tai Po Police Station on August 29.
Meanwhile, the Post has learned 44 out of 49 people arrested during separate clashes between police and protesters on Sunday will be charged with rioting, in a first such move over the extradition bill crisis.
A police insider said that of the remaining five suspects, one would be charged with possessing offensive weapons, while the others would be granted bail or released unconditionally.
The source said the 45 suspects were likely to be taken to Eastern Court in Sai Wan Ho on Wednesday.
This article Five men in Hong Kong court over Yuen Long clashes amid extradition bill anger first appeared on South China Morning Post