Two Guilty, Two Acquitted of 'Rioting' in Hong Kong University Siege

The court says two students were seen throwing molotov cocktails and bricks, while police failed to prove that the other two were at the scene.
2021-07-07
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Two Guilty, Two Acquitted of 'Rioting' in Hong Kong University Siege Protesters clash with riot police at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Nov. 12, 2019.
AFP

A Hong Kong court on Wednesday found two university students guilty of "rioting" during the 2019 siege of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) campus by riot police.

Cheung Chun-ho, 20, and Tang Hei-man, 24, were seen throwing bricks and molotov cocktails towards the police as students sought to block the advance of riot police at a footbridge outside the university campus on Nov. 12, 2019, District Court judge Clement Lee told the court.

Lee said "the only reasonable conclusion" was that the two had been taking part in a riot.

Cheung was a student at the Institute of Vocational Education at the time, while Tang was at CUHK.

Two other defendants -- former CUHK student Chan Hey-hang, 22, and Polytechnic University alumnus Lee Chun-ho, 25 -- were acquitted of the same charge, as the prosecution failed to show that they were even at the scene, the court ruled after rejecting the testimony of their arresting officer.

Hong Kong police besieged CUHK on Nov. 12, 2019, tear gassing its president and pursuing fleeing students onto a sports field while unleashing a hail of rubber bullets and tear gas canisters.

A pall of smoke rose above the university after students set up barricades to prevent riot police from entering the campus, as President Rocky Tuan and other senior members of staff tried to negotiate with police to stand down and defuse the standoff.

Police said they had pursued students onto their campus near the New Territories town of Shatin to prevent them from throwing projectiles from a bridge down onto a nearby highway and subway tracks.

As tensions worsened later in the evening, officers opened fire with tear gas and rubber bullets towards Tuan, staff members, and a large group of students surrounding them, saying he should leave if he had no control over the black-clad protesters guarding the bridge with barricades and fires and lobbing petrol bombs and bricks.

The tear gassing that ensued near the No. 2 Bridge lasted for more than an hour, and left the area shrouded in smoke with all present wearing full-face respirators, social media reports and live video streams showed.

Protesters said via Twitter that the students were insisting that police stay away for fear that they would access Hong Kong's internet exchange, which is located on the CUHK campus, and cut off the city's access to the internet outside China.

Broken promises

Under the "one country, two systems" terms of the 1997 handover agreement, Hong Kong was promised the continuation of its traditional freedoms of speech, association, and expression, as well as progress towards fully democratic elections and a separate legal jurisdiction.

But plans to allow extradition to mainland China sparked a city-wide mass movement that broadened to demand fully democratic elections and an independent inquiry into police violence.

And an international alliance of scholars signed a petition condemning the use of "disproportionate force and retaliatory brutality" by the Hong Kong police against students in university campuses.

Rights groups have hit out at the rapid deterioration of human rights protections since the national security law was imposed on Hong Kong by China's National People's Congress (NPC) standing committee.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials say the law was needed to deal with an attempt by foreign powers to foment a "color revolution" in Hong Kong.

But its sweeping provisions allowed China's feared state security police to set up a headquarters in Hong Kong, granted sweeping powers to police to search private property and require the deletion of public content, and criminalized criticism of the city government and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Dozens of opposition lawmakers are awaiting trial for subversion for taking part in a democratic primary, while at least seven journalists have been arrested for "colluding with a foreign power" in connection with opinion pieces in the Apple Daily newspaper, which was forced to close after its assets were frozen in a raid by national security police on June 17.

The government has also asserted editorial control over public broadcaster RTHK, where a number of prominent journalists have been fired or sanctioned for producing content critical of the authorities.

And there are growing constraints on academic freedom at Hong Kong's universities, with events canceled, debates modified, and lecturers reported by student informants over potential violations of the law.

Reported by Lau Siu Fung for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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