Hong Kong protests: university student charged with carrying petrol bombs acquitted over mishandled evidence

Brian Wong
·4-min read

A Hong Kong university student charged with carrying petrol bombs to a protest more than a year ago has been acquitted after the magistrate found investigators had mishandled the evidence.

Tuen Mun Court on Tuesday cleared Li Ki-lun of possessing offensive weapons in a public place after his lawyers argued the 23-year-old had been framed by police on November 11, 2019, when citywide protests paralysed traffic. The demonstration was part of the months-long anti-government movement that year sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

Li was said to have carried two firebombs in his drawstring bag when he and some black-clad protesters occupied a section of Tuen Mun Heung Sze Wui Road at around 11pm.

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The prosecution alleged Li attempted to throw the bag over a wire fence and into a river when he was chased by police, but it got stuck on the fence. A police constable, surnamed Lee, testified he was the first officer to discover the petrol bombs inside the bag after subduing the defendant.

But police footage of the incident showed the bag was already opened before Lee had started searching it. It also showed the defendant’s hat, which the officer claimed was found inside the bag, on the ground before the search. The clip showed the officer holding the bag in an upright position, tightening it, and then opening it up again, before looking at the contents.

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In Tuesday’s verdict, Magistrate Edward Wong Ching-yu found the officer had failed to explain why he needed to close the bag before searching it, adding the cumulative effect of irregularities amounted to a reasonable doubt whether the bombs belonged to the defendant.

“Even though the defendant ... acted in a very suspicious way, the prosecution has failed to prove the offence beyond reasonable doubt,” Wong said.

Two co-defendants, salesman Tam Chun-yin, 27, and student Yan Chun-nam, 20, were each convicted of a similar charge after they were caught carrying laser pointers during the same protest. Wong remanded the pair in custody until sentencing on January 29.

Tuen Mun Law Courts Building located in Tuen Mun. Photo: K. Y. Cheng
Tuen Mun Law Courts Building located in Tuen Mun. Photo: K. Y. Cheng

In a separate case heard at the same court, a district councillor’s assistant was found guilty of obstructing a sergeant in his pursuit of a suspect by tossing a water bottle at him during a protest in Yuen Long on October 21, 2019, three months after a mob attack on protesters and railway passengers inside the local MTR station.

Magistrate Frances Leung Nga-yan convicted Tommy Lee Tsz-ho, who works for Tuen Mun councillor Sam Cheung Ho-sum, after finding police footage had clearly captured the incident.

But Leung acquitted the 24-year-old of resisting the officer after ruling it natural for Lee to struggle on the ground as several officers were seen sitting on his body in the footage. She further cleared Lee of possessing offensive weapons – he had been accused of keeping a laser pointer – after finding the device might not belong to him. Lee was remanded ahead of sentencing on January 29.

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Meanwhile at Kowloon City Court, a vocational school student was jailed for six months for resisting arrest at a demonstration inside Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui on Christmas Eve of 2019.

Magistrate Jacky Ip Kai-leung said a deterrent sentence was necessary in the case of Lo Chun-sing, who was 20 at the time of the offence, as he had resisted police vigorously and ended up injuring three sergeants who tried to subdue him. He granted the student bail at HK$10,000 (US$1,289) so he could lodge an appeal in the High Court.

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