Two young Hong Kong protesters who were earlier cleared of manslaughter over a 2019 demonstration that resulted in the death of a cleaner have been jailed 5½ years for rioting.
Student Chan Yin-ting, 18, and Kelvin Lau Tsz-lung, 19, who is unemployed, appeared before a High Court judge on Friday to be sentenced over the riot in Sheung Shui on November 13, 2019, that resulted in the death of Luo Changqing, described by the judge as “heart-rending” .
Luo, 70, suffered a blow to the forehead by a flying brick while filming the morning skirmish between a group of mostly black-clad protesters seeking to paralyse traffic outside Sheung Shui railway station and residents attempting to clear the obstacles on the roads.
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.
The cleaner sustained fatal head injuries after falling backwards upon the impact. He was certified dead in hospital the next day.
A jury comprising two men and five women acquitted the pair last month of the more serious charges of manslaughter, as well as wounding with intent over the injuries sustained by a 61-year-old man, who was assaulted after trying to clear the roadblocks. The panel, however, found the two guilty of taking part in a riot.
Madam Justice Esther Toh Lye-ping said on Friday the clash was a “very serious” one in which a group of black-clad youngsters hurled bricks and stones at ordinary residents who had “selflessly and courageously” removed obstacles on the roads without provoking their opponents.
The defendants demonstrated some premeditation, Toh said, pointing to phone messaging records and security footage showing they had discussions about bringing hammers to the scene before scouting the area around the railway station that morning.
“Now, of course, both defendants have been acquitted of the manslaughter charge in relation to the deceased and of the wounding of [the 61-year-old man] ... I respect the jury’s decision on this. However, it does not lessen the tragic consequences of this riot,” Toh said. “And that is why this riot, I consider, to be a very serious one.”
She added: “This city was built on blood, sweat and tears of the many people who have gone before us. Therefore, we really have to appreciate that destruction, destroying the city, is no way forward.”
The judge set a starting point of sentence of six years imprisonment, out of a maximum of 10 years, before knocking off half a year in light of various mitigating factors, including the defendants’ lack of “proper adult supervision” resulting in their inability to “anticipate the disastrous consequences of their acts”.
She also referred to the defendants’ young age at the time of the offence, their clear criminal records, and favourable comments made by probation officers, who indicated that they, with their families’ support, “could go on to become constructive citizens of Hong Kong”.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong protests: 2 teens acquitted of manslaughter over janitor’s death but found guilty of rioting
- Hong Kong protests: construction worker acquitted of rioting charge as black attire ‘not enough to prove involvement’ in violence