A cleaner who admitted damaging the wall of a Hong Kong police station was ordered to do 80 hours of community service by a court on Friday – the first anti-government protester to be sentenced over the months of social unrest.
Cheung Wing-kei, 37, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal damage, after he left a two-centimetre-long scratch on the wall of Castle Peak Police Station in Tuen Mun in the early morning of August 9, when anti-government demonstrators besieged the facility to protest against what they claimed was excessive force used on them.
The court heard Cheung, who was subdued by officers at the scene, yelled “damn black cops” during the assembly and threw a metal machinery part towards the wall.
Out of more than 1,180 arrestees over the months-long movement against the extradition bill – which the city’s leader has announced will be withdrawn, Cheung was the first protester to receive his sentence.
More than 191 people have been charged over a series of incidents, ranging from clashes with police, unlawful assemblies to violent disputes.
Following the announcement of the bill’s withdrawal, protesters are now pressing the government to concede to their remaining four demands, which include an independent inquiry into the alleged police brutalities.
Cheung, who had a clean criminal record, admitted to police he committed the offence out of discontent with the force, who, he said had “unreasonably” arrested protesters.
He threw a machinery part towards the police station’s wall and tried to escape, but in vain. Officers found in his possession 11 metal machinery parts and three water pipes – all of which he had scavenged from a recycling centre in the hope of selling them.
Passing the sentence at Tuen Mun Magistrates’ Court on Friday, Acting Principal Magistrate Cheung Kit-yee said the defendant had neglected the safety of police officers. Had the projectile missed the wall he intended to damage, officers or pedestrians could have been injured.
“His act was apparently a challenge to the rule of law, as well as police. It also bore a potential risk of causing harm to others,” she said.
But the magistrate spared him jail as the offence was not premeditated, and did not cause any serious damage. Cheung, who acted alone, also expressed remorse.
The magistrate also found him to have a stable job, which acted as another positive mitigating factor.
She accepted the recommendation made by the probation officer and sentenced him to community service.
This article Hong Kong protests: cleaner gets 80 hours of community service for vandalising police station wall, in first sentence against a demonstrator during months-long unrest first appeared on South China Morning Post