A man seen directing a white-clad mob to beat protesters and commuters at a Hong Kong railway station two years ago has said he was only retaliating for what he maintained was aggression on the part of his targets.
Merchant Tang Wai-sum’s lawyer told a judge on Wednesday his client had wished to “repel” the people he said had attacked him and his neighbours, so he picked up a wooden rod from the ground and swung it at a gathering crowd outside Yuen Long MTR station. He then instructed his accomplices to go after their victims inside the station’s concourse in the early hours of July 22, 2019.
Another lawyer acting for village representative Tang Ying-bun also maintained the stick in his client’s possession did not belong to him, but was picked up by chance.
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The two Tangs were among seven defendants convicted on rioting and wounding charges over one of the worst outbreaks of violence during the social unrest of 2019.
The attack, in which a white-clad mob injured 45 protesters and commuters with rattan and wooden sticks, was a watershed moment in the anti-government protests, with police becoming the target of public anger for arriving late at the scene.
The force has since defended its response, saying it was stretched thin battling a protest in the heart of the city.
Both Tangs were found guilty last month after a trial, and were escorted to the District Court for the mitigation hearing on Wednesday alongside a third defendant, merchant Lam Kai-ming, 45, who pleaded guilty in February. The remaining four accused made their mitigation submissions in a previous hearing.
In Wednesday’s hearing, judge Eddie Yip Chor-man cast doubt on both Tangs’ claims, saying they had failed to explain the necessity of carrying a stick in a situation that did not initially appear to concern them.
Tang Ying-bun’s lawyer, James Tze Ying-kuen, said his 62-year-old client had hoped to see whether anyone from his village in Pat Heung was involved in the violence.
Tze said the village chief did not call police because he knew someone else already had, and was “confident” the force would resolve the matter. Nonetheless, he grabbed the stick to protect himself, the lawyer added.
Yip, however, found that submission “contrary to common sense”, saying the defendant would not have gone to the station’s platform, where the violence was most intense, had he genuinely feared for his safety. He also appeared to have turned a blind eye to the mob’s assaults, the judge said.
“Why is there a need for a good and kind-hearted person, who is well known by his peers and who merely wished to take a look at the surroundings, to carry a stick to protect himself?” Yip asked.
In response, Tze said his client dropped the weapon soon after seeing the violence on the platform.
“He also feared being attacked,” the lawyer added.
Stephen Ma Tsz-on, representing 62-year-old Tang Wai-sum, insisted his client did not have a weapon with him at first, but later picked up a stick which he used to assault people near Exit J of the station.
But the judge was unconvinced by that claim as well, saying the merchant deserved the most severe penalty of the seven as he had orchestrated part of the attack.
Yip asked the lawyer: “[Tang Ying-bun] said he picked up a stick on the ground. Your client also said he did the same. Why were there sticks all over the ground?”
“It cannot be explained,” the lawyer replied.
The judge will pass sentence on July 22. The seven defendants are remanded in custody.
This article Hong Kong protests: defendants in Yuen Long mob attack trial insist they went to scene unarmed first appeared on South China Morning Post