Hong Kong court jails three on riot charges despite no evidence of rioting

Activist Joshua Wong separately sentenced over Tiananmen vigil protest in 2020

A court in Hong Kong has sentenced three people to years in jail on riot convictions, despite no evidence they were actually involved in rioting. In a separate case, the activist Joshua Wong and three others were also given jail terms over a Tiananmen Square massacre vigil held in breach of Covid restrictions.

The three protesters, all in their 20s, were jailed by a district court judge, En-nest Lin, on Wednesday for terms of up to four years and three months. Lin said even though there was no evidence the trio were involved in any rioting, their presence at the rally in October 2019 encouraged other protesters, RTHK reported.

He described the confrontation between police and the estimated 100 protesters as a “mini war” but said officers restrained themselves while protesters lit fires and threw petrol bombs.

According to RTHK, Lin said the harsh sentences were required as a deterrent and that the accused must face the same punishment as those who broke the law, under the “joint enterprise” principle.

The pro-democracy movement has rejected authorities’ classification of the protests that swept Hong Kong in 2019 as “riots”, which carries far higher punishments in the court system.

More than 10,000 people have been arrested over the protests. A withdrawal of the designation was one of five core demands of the movement, which has since been crushed by an overwhelming crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong.

Key figures have been arrested and jailed, including Wong, who was already serving more than 17 months in jail when he was given a further 10 on Thursday for his involvement in a vigil organised last year, to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre of 4 June 1989.

The vigil was banned by authorities citing pandemic restrictions, but tens of thousands of people lit candles across the city, while a smaller group gathered at the usual site in Victoria Park. The night was peaceful barring a small skirmish with police in one neighbourhood.

Wong, 24, was sentenced to 15 months but received a reduction due to his guilty plea.

The judge, Stanley Chan, also sentenced Lester Shum, Jannelle Leung and Tiffany Yuen to between four and six months. Twenty others facing similar Tiananmen Square anniversary charges are due to appear in court on 11 June. “Freedom of assembly is not unlimited,” Chan said.

Wong also faces charges alongside almost 50 other activists, campaigners and politicians, for organising unofficial primaries before a since-delayed general election.

This year’s vigil on 4 June is expected to also be banned. Since the massacre more than 30 years ago, Hong Kong has held a vigil every year – the only legal commemoration in greater China and one attended by up to hundreds of thousands of people.


Helen Davidson and agencies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Hong Kong police raid Tiananmen massacre museum
Crackdown follows arrest of four members of civil society group that ran June 4th Museum

Helen Davidson in Taipei

09, Sep, 2021 @7:29 AM

Article image
By banning Tiananmen vigils in Hong Kong, China is trying to rewrite history | Louisa Lim
The Communist party is widening its attack on the legacy of 1989 – and criminalising a new generation of activists, says author Louisa Lim

Louisa Lim

03, Jun, 2021 @11:07 PM

Article image
Hong Kong protesters hold banned Tiananmen vigil as anthem law is passed
Protesters defy police ban as legislation prohibits mockery of Chinese anthem

Guardian reporter in Hong Kong

04, Jun, 2020 @5:31 PM

Article image
‘Atmosphere of fear’: Hong Kong students lament loss of Tiananmen statues
Staff and students say the recent destruction of massacre monuments is a manifestation of a new and uneasy culture on campus

Rhoda Kwan in Taipei

31, Dec, 2021 @1:08 AM

Article image
Beijing calls Hong Kong bar association chief an ‘anti-China politician’
Authorities lambast British-born Paul Harris for criticising treatment of pro-democracy campaigners

Helen Davidson in Taipei

27, Apr, 2021 @11:10 AM

Article image
Hong Kong protesters go on trial as fight for democracy continues
Case highlights failure to honour promise of free elections, say campaigners

Suzanne Sataline in Hong Kong and agencies

18, Nov, 2018 @6:01 PM

Article image
Agnes Chow: activist leaves jail as China says Hong Kong ‘pawn in geopolitics’
Key figure was imprisoned for more than six months for her role in the 2019 anti-government protests

Staff and agencies

12, Jun, 2021 @6:20 AM

Article image
US-based Asia Society accused of kowtowing to China over Hong Kong activist
Congressman says New York charity ‘has some explaining to do’ after refusal to host event featuring democracy campaigner Joshua Wong

Benjamin Haas in Hong Kong

06, Jul, 2017 @11:20 AM

Article image
Hong Kong riot police clash with airport protesters
Batons and pepper spray used on protesters as flights suspended for second day

Erin Hale in Hong Kong, Lily Kuo in Beijing, and Emma Graham-Harrison

13, Aug, 2019 @4:12 PM

Article image
Hong Kong court bans pro-independence politicians from office
Yau Wai-ching and Baggio ‘Sixtus’ Leung banned from parliament after criticising China during swearing-in ceremony

Benjamin Haas in Hong Kong

15, Nov, 2016 @1:28 PM