A Hong Kong martial arts athlete was jailed for six months on Wednesday for taking part in an unlawful assembly during an anti-government protest outside the city’s legislature in 2019.
Kwong Yuk-ming’s lawyer told Eastern Court his client believed the conviction would shatter his dream of winning medals at the 2022 Asian Games and other major events in the future.
Four co-defendants were also convicted and jailed for between seven weeks and seven months, as the presiding magistrate turned down their lawyers’ pleas for non-custodial sentences.
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The trial centred on the overnight chaos outside the Legislative Council between June 9 and 10, 2019, when protesters confronted police after a march on Hong Kong Island with an estimated turnout of 1 million.
After the mass demonstration, the government issued a statement insisting it would proceed with the now-withdrawn extradition bill, ignoring protesters’ demands.
The court heard that after the government’s response, around 200 protesters began dismantling barriers outside Legco and formed human chains in an attempt to storm the building. They also hurled water bottles and umbrellas at officers guarding the entrance.
Prosecutors charged 15 men with offences, including taking part in an unlawful assembly and assaulting a police officer. Ten of them were previously jailed or sentenced to community service after pleading guilty.
Four of the other five – Kwong, 23; restaurant employee Wong Lok-kwan, 23; nursing student Tsang Wing-cheung, 31; and former accountant clerk Liauw Tak-fai, 43 – denied taking part in an unlawful assembly. The fifth defendant, computer technician Wan Chun-ho, 31, denied obstructing a police officer during the incident.
Lawyers for the five had challenged the identities of the alleged offenders captured in police footage, saying their clients were not seen in any of the video evidence.
But Magistrate Daniel Tang Siu-hung said on Wednesday police footage clearly showed the five defendants committing the respective offences.
In mitigation, Kwong’s lawyer described his client as a decorated athlete who had the potential to be successful at the Asian Games and other major sports competitions, but said his career had come to an end after the conviction.
The court heard Kwong won his first gold medal at the age of 10 in spear art in the World Junior Wushu Championships in 2008, before being awarded the Hong Kong Junior Sports Stars Award in 2010.
He was arrested in August 2019 at the city’s airport when he was about to leave to take part in the World Martial Arts Masterships in South Korea, but was later granted temporary release to continue with the competition. He eventually won a bronze medal in the xing yi quan category.
The magistrate set a starting point of nine months in jail for the four defendants found guilty of taking part in the unlawful assembly, but reduced their sentences by two months to reflect their previous clear criminal records.
He gave a further one-month waiver to Kwong in light of the impact the case had on him. He also jailed the fifth defendant, Wan, for seven weeks for obstructing a police officer.
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