Two men and a teenager have admitted rioting inside a Hong Kong shopping centre during last year’s anti-government unrest, leaving a police officer with double vision that stopped him from driving and carrying out frontline duties.
The District Court heard Detective Constable Cheung Lik-hang was on his way to help an assaulted colleague in Sha Tin’s New Town Plaza on July 14, 2019, when he was attacked by more than 20 hardcore protesters who kicked, punched and used hard objects such as umbrellas on him, until reinforcements arrived a minute later.
Two of the assailants then joined another gang of about 10 radical protesters in a minute-long attack on a second constable, Andy Kwok Siu-hang, who fell from a nearby escalator while being chased from the upper floor.
Both officers suffered injuries, with Cheung still having eye damage that required constant pain medication and regular check-ups, while Kwok has recovered after receiving three stitches on his scalp.
The violence followed an afternoon rally through the centre of Sha Tin, attended by tens of thousands of people demanding the full withdrawal of the extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects in Hong Kong to be transferred for trial to mainland China and other jurisdictions the city lacks such a deal with. The bill was eventually shelved in September.
On Friday, security personnel Kung Chi-yuen, 51, and Leung Pak-tim, 24, who is unemployed, each pleaded guilty to two counts of rioting, while student Lee Man-him, 17, admitted one count of the same charge.
The offence is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment but capped at seven when the case is heard at the District Court.
Two other charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent were left on file after all three defendants pleaded not guilty.
District Judge Amanda Woodcock will sentence them on September 18, pending reports on Lee’s suitability for a training centre. All three defendants are remanded in custody.
Senior public prosecutor Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan said the case began when officers who were dressed in plain clothes and standard police vests, entered the shopping centre at about 9.45pm.
Footage of the events played in court showed Leung kicking and repeatedly assaulting Cheung with an umbrella, while Lee jabbed and struck the officer for more than 20 times, also with an umbrella, until police reinforcements arrived.
Kung was then seen throwing an umbrella at one of the officers who rescued Cheung, but missed.
A few shops away, Kwok was going up an escalator to reach colleagues being assaulted on the upper floor when he found both ends of the staircase surrounded by protesters.
As he turned to go downwards, he was pushed from behind, which caused him to fall from the escalator onto the floor, where Leung kicked him while Kung hit the officer’s back and assaulted him five times with an umbrella.
Cheung, the detective constable, sustained multiple fractures to his nose and the bones around his left eyeball, which also suffered from haematoma with yellowish vision and binocular double vision.
He is currently on sick leave, pending a medical board assessment to determine his work capacity.
Meanwhile, Kwok suffered a 2.5cm cut on his scalp, abrasions to his face and back, and swelling on his right elbow and leg. He resumed normal duties after 42 days of sick leave.
In mitigation, Leung’s defence counsel Randy Shek Shu-ming said his client was “not the kind of person who indulges in gratuitous violence” and that he had genuine remorse for what he did.
Another counsel, Kelvin Lai, submitted that his client, Kung, had set out to participate in peaceful demonstrations on the day and acted “completely out of character”.
“The momentary lapse of judgment has resulted in where he is now,” Lai continued. “He has profound remorse.”
Lee’s counsel, Jasper Kwan Hang-fun, urged the court to consider alternative sentencing options, arguing that he was not a violent person but “made the wrong call” when he came across such a screaming crowd for the first time while he was on his way home after cycling in Tai Wai. “He immediately realised he had done something very wrong.”
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This article Hong Kong protests: trio admits rioting inside shopping centre during last year’s unrest first appeared on South China Morning Post