Hong Kong pair admit to rioting and vandalising government property during clash with police four years ago

Brian Wong
·3-min read

Two men are facing up to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to rioting and vandalising government property during violent clashes between protesters and police in one of Hong Kong’s busiest districts four years ago.

Tam Pak-hei, 22, admitted to hurling bricks and objects at officers in Mong Kok on the morning of February 9, 2016, the District Court heard on Monday.

Co-defendant Wong Kwok-pan, 24, also pleaded guilty to illegally removing a signpost from a pavement that morning, as well as whacking a walkway with a brick to dig up more bricks to be used against police.

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The pair were among hundreds of masked protesters who took part in the overnight unrest on February 8, the first day of Lunar New Year.

Chan Shun-yiu is accused of arson. Photo: Brian Wong
Chan Shun-yiu is accused of arson. Photo: Brian Wong

Prosecutors said a riot broke out on Soy Street at 6am on February 9, when more than 20 masked protesters threw bricks and objects at police, who attempted to disperse the crowd using pepper spray.

Two news clips captured the moment Tam, who was working as a bartender at the time of the offence, threw a brick and an unidentified object at a police cordon. The projectiles landed on the road without hitting anybody.

An hour later, he joined Wong, who was a student, and an unidentified man, when they shook a signpost together on Shantung Street until it became loose and detached from the pavement.

Police arrested Wong and Tam on November 3, 2016, and April 11 the following year, respectively.

Under caution, Tam confessed to throwing multiple bricks at police, but claimed he simply imitated what other protesters were doing and had not intended to injure anybody.

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Wong said he shook the signpost and vandalised the pavement “for fun” and “out of curiosity”.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal damage, while prosecutors agreed not to press a charge of criminal damage against Tam after the latter pleaded guilty to rioting.

Judge Ernest Michael Lin Kam-hung ordered the pair be remanded until sentencing on November 23, pending the defendants’ background reports.

A third defendant, 32-year-old Chan Shun-yiu, a swimming coach at the time of the offence, stood trial on one count of arson before the same judge, after he denied accelerating a fire on Shantung Street by putting a stolen banner inside a burning rubbish bin on the road on February 9.

Prosecutor Boey Chung said Chan’s offence was caught on at least three surveillance cameras in the area, adding the defendant had admitted wrongdoing when arrested on August 1 that year.

Chan’s lawyer, Lawrence Lau Wai-chung, argued his client had confessed involuntarily.

The trial is expected to last 15 days.

Rioting, criminal damage and arson are punishable by seven years in prison at the District Court level.

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