Thanks to the High Court Jury system, 3 Mongkok Lunar New Yr Police-civilian Clash defendants, Edward Leung, Vincent Lam and Lee Nok-man, are acquitted of all rioting charges, while Yung Wai-yip is convicted of 2 rioting charges and 1 charge of assaulting police. However, Hong Kong District Court and Magistracy cases are tried without a jury, much to the disadvantage of political prisoners. The American War of Independence broke out in part because George III deprived the Americans of their jury right.
The Clash Concerned Arose out of Repeated Provocations by the Police
On 8 Feb. 2016 night, when Hong Kong unlicensed hawkers, following the tradition of the Lunar New Year, sold cooked food in Mongkok, Kowloon, HK, they were harassed by food hygiene officers. The HK Indigenous, a localist party headed by Edward Leung & Ray Wong, together with other civilians, came to shield the hawkers. Defenders of hawkers and the police at first peacefully confronted each other. Edward Leung, as a Legislature by-election candidate, started a election rally to justify the gathering, but suddenly, without sufficient warning, the police attacked the crowd with pepper spray and shields. When the provoked crowd refused to go, they were beaten with batons by the charging police. The crowd then dispersed to nearby streets and engaged in sporadic conflicts with the police. The conflict was escalated when a policeman fired twice at the sky & then pointed it at the crowd. It was only then that more and more protesters threw bricks at the police from a distance. Finally 91 people were arrested at the scene or at home.
Regarding Edward Leung’s sentencing in the last trial, Lord Chris Patten, last Governor of Hong Kong, said, “We attempted to reform the Public Order Ordinance in the 1990s and made a number of changes because it was clear that the vague definitions in the legislation are open to abuse and do not conform with United Nations human rights standards….. that the legislation is now being used politically to place extreme sentences on the pan-democrats and other activists.” Fiona Bruce MP, the Chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, said: “Edward’s sentencing … is only one of many examples of the HK government using the law to intimidate the pro-democracy movement and curtail freedom of expression.” (According to that Ordinance, anyone joining an “unlawful assembly” & committing “a breach of the peace” is guilty of “rioting”. An “unlawful assembly” is one in which 3 or more persons act in a disorderly….manner likely or intended to cause any reasonable person to fear there will be a breach of the peace.)
The HK Public Order Ordinance was passed by the British Colonial Govt. to deal with HK 1967 rioters. The HK 1967 Riots, encouraged by Beijing & local communists, lasted for 8 months and led to 51 deaths (incl. kids, journalists, & policemen) & 802 injuries. Most of the accused got only 1 to 2 years’ imprisonment. Whereas the Mongkok civil unrest only lasted for 10 hours & led to 125 injuries (mostly protesters) & no deaths. Yet, the accused were severely punished in the last trial of the Mongkok case, e.g., Edward Leung was sentenced to 6 years in jail, Lo Kin-man 7 years, and a 72-year-old W.C. Chan 41 months.
Almost all of the defendants related to this incident who were tried in the District Court have been convicted and sent to prison. In fact, the District Court conviction rate is in general much higher than the High Court conviction rate, especially when political dissidents are concerned.