Two anti-government protesters who admitted vandalising a Hong Kong railway station and dodging train fare during last year’s civil unrest have been spared jail after the magistrate accepted they were genuinely remorseful.
The pair – medical appliance technician Lee Hok-man and vocational school student Hui Ka-kiu, aged 23 and 22 respectively – were each sentenced to 200 hours of community service plus a HK$500 (US$64) fine at Eastern Court for their offences committed on September 15, when an unauthorised rally descended into chaos across Hong Kong Island.
The procession was part of a wider democratic movement that stemmed from a now-withdrawn extradition bill allowing Hong Kong to send suspects to jurisdictions with which the city had no formal transfer agreement, including mainland China.
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Beginning last summer, the MTR Corporation became a target for protesters, who accused the rail operator of siding with police during clearance operations.
Lee and Hui, who studied at Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education, were said to have trashed Tin Hau MTR station at around 7pm that day, alongside 22-year-old Chan Wing-cheong. The damage cost HK$44,208 to repair, according to the MTR Corp.
Prosecutors said Lee smashed the screen of a ticket machine with a spanner and kicked it for two minutes, while Hui jammed the banknote acceptors of three other machines with adhesive. Chan kept a lookout for police and did not directly take part.
They fled 10 minutes later by entering the station’s paid area through the staff entrance and boarding a train but were intercepted at Kowloon Bay station after officers at Tin Hau station called for reinforcement.
On July 6, Lee and Hui pleaded guilty to one joint count of criminal damage. The two also admitted to one count of fare evasion.
Chan, in his second year at Open University, was fined HK$500 after pleading guilty to dodging fare at a previous hearing.
On Monday, Magistrate Veronica Heung Shuk-han accepted the probation officer’s recommendation and ordered Lee and Hui to each serve 200 hours of unpaid community work for criminal damage.
She said the act of defacing MTR facilities was “certainly not a small matter”, but decided to spare the two jail after considering they had been remanded for two weeks after admitting the offences. She also noted they were both young and had paid compensation to the railway company in full. They were each fined HK$500 for ticket evasion.
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