A Hong Kong student faces up to seven years behind bars after being found guilty of rioting and attempted possession of firearms on Thursday for snatching a police officer’s shotgun during a protest two years ago.
Chan Chun-hin, 18, faces a likely jail sentence following the District Court ruling, as the judge found the lesser punishment of correctional training inappropriate given the serious nature of the offences.
The judge remanded the student in custody and called for a background report to determine whether further assessment was necessary before sentencing.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
Chan faced four charges in connection with the disturbance at the Landmark North shopping centre in Sheung Shui on December 28, 2019, when protesters assembled to show their discontent with mainland Chinese parallel traders and shoppers in the district.
At last month’s trial, he pleaded guilty to two counts of resisting a police officer, but maintained his innocence on the charges of rioting, assaulting an officer and attempted possession of firearms without a licence.
The court heard Chan had joined a crowd of about 50 people who chanted slogans and obstructed a footbridge leading to the shopping centre that evening. Some protesters later surrounded a man who took a video of the gathering, snatching his mobile phone and beating him on the ground.
The student was said to have taken part in a riot by choking the man and covering his accomplices’ assault with an umbrella.
Two police officers who rushed to the scene nearly captured Chan at the entrance of the mall, but the accused allegedly pushed them away and ran into the building.
Police later found Chan hiding in a jewellery store and tried to apprehend him, but the student put up a violent struggle and charged at one of the officers in a bid to seize his Remington shotgun, the court was told. Officers subdued the defendant by hitting him with a baton and a police shield, and firing pepper spray at him.
Chan’s lawyers did not dispute the occurrence of a riot, but contended the video evidence was not clear enough to show their client was a participant.
But after repeatedly viewing the relevant footage, judge Frankie Yiu Fun-che pointed to the unique colour strips of Chan’s sports shoes in ruling he was indeed the one who attacked the victim and offered help to other assailants.
In relation to the firearms allegation, Chan’s counsel submitted that he had been in a confused state of mind when he “accidentally” grabbed the officer’s weapon because he was hit in the head with a police baton. The move could also have been a reflex action to maintain balance during the chaos, the lawyers added.
Yiu disagreed, saying Chan had held the shotgun for 10 seconds, long enough for him to realise what he was doing.
The defendant had also placed his finger on the shotgun’s trigger and even pulled it three times – although no shot was fired as the safety lock was engaged and no cartridge was in the chamber at the time – which was clear evidence he had attempted to seize the weapon.
The judge cleared Chan of assaulting a police officer, citing a lack of evidence.
He will return to court on September 23.
Rioting and attempted possession of firearms without a licence are punishable by seven years in jail when the case is tried in the District Court.