A Hong Kong woman found guilty of rioting in the civil unrest in one of the city’s busiest districts three years ago was on Tuesday sentenced to 46 months in jail.
Amy Pat Wai-fun, 24, was convicted of two counts of rioting in relation to violent clashes that took place overnight between some 500 protesters and riot police in Mong Kok between February 8 and 9 in 2016.
Judge Ernest Michael Lin Kam-hung refused to sentence Pat, who has an intellectual disability, to probation as recommended by the probation officer, saying the offence was serious and such an order would have sent out the wrong message to society.
Psychiatrists were of the view that although Pat had the cognitive ability of a 10- to 12-year-old child, her impairment did not affect her ability to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the offence.
The District Court heard Pat had dug up bricks from a pavement with at least nine others, as some 150 masked protesters gathered at Sai Yeung Choi Street South in the early hours of February 9. Pat passed the bricks to other protesters, who then hurled them towards a police cordon.
In another incident, Pat threw objects into a fire at Soy Street, where some 200 masked people confronted police officers, who had bricks flung towards them by some of the protesters, the court heard.
Lin found the unemployed woman guilty of both charges earlier this month, saying that although she played a different role in the clashes, she shared the same criminal liabilities with other protesters who attacked police using the bricks she dug out.
Passing sentence on Tuesday, Lin said a starting point of 4½ years in prison was appropriate, as the offence was a premeditated one that involved hundreds of protesters.
But Lin was sympathetic towards Pat, as he noted she did not have any friends because of her disability and lack of communication skills, until she started taking part in the Occupy movement in 2014.
“The defendant is a person left behind by the mainstream society,” Lin said. “She might have taken part in the pro-democracy movement because of her pursuit of freedom and democracy, but various reports have suggested that she might have simply wanted to be recognised, have her existence proven and to be praised by others – something which she could not otherwise have obtained.
“Because of the disability she was born with, she has resorted to unlawful means which most people do not accept to be praised by people fighting for freedom and democracy, which deserves sympathy,” Lin said. “But that cannot be an excuse to completely evade criminal liabilities.”
He reduced Pat’s jail term by eight months given her circumstances, and ordered the sentences for both charges to run concurrently.
An emotional Pat burst into tears in the dock after the ruling and asked the judge to hear her explanation, but Lin left before she could speak.
Senior Inspector Bill Lau Chun-piu, of the organised crime and triad bureau, said the court ruling had brought a clear message that society would not accept anyone who resorted to violence to express their views.
“The police will make every endeavour to prosecute anyone who breaks the law and hold them accountable to the law,” he said.
Lau refused to comment on the recent protests and the progress of police investigation on them.
The Mong Kok civil unrest, which erupted on the first day of the Lunar New Year in 2016, saw some 91 people between the ages of 14 and 70 arrested over rioting, taking part in an unlawful assembly, assaulting police officers and other offences.
Pat was among 33 people convicted on various offences over the disturbance, including localist leader Edward Leung Tin-kei, who was jailed for six years for rioting and assaulting a police officer.
While 64 of the arrested individuals have been charged, three of them – including Ray Wong Toi-yeung, founder of the localist Hong Kong Indigenous party – have skipped bail and fled overseas. A total of 26 others have been released and one is still under investigation.
This article Mong Kok rioter jailed for 46 months in Hong Kong for role in 2016 clashes first appeared on South China Morning Post