HK Judge Lenient With Triad Member Convicted in Violent Yuen Long Attack

HK Judge Lenient With Triad Member Convicted in Violent Yuen Long Attack
Men in white T-shirts and face masks attack anti-extradition bill demonstrators and reporters at a train station in Hong Kong, on July 21, 2019, in this still image obtained from a social media live video. (Courtesy of Stand News/Social Media via Reuters)

It has been more than three years since the July 21 attack on the Yuen Long Station platform in Hong Kong in 2019. Seven people, including gang leader Ng Wai-nam, better known to his peers as “Fei Tin Nam,” were earlier convicted of rioting. Another defendant, Ching Wai-ming, was convicted of rioting by the District Court and the case was then moved to West Kowloon Law Courts, for a follow-up hearing on Sept. 7.

The presiding judge believed that this “man in white” (Ching) did make an agreement to hurt people that night, but what he did was just “a small punishment to prevent them [the victims] from their future bigger fall.” He thought this was different from the usual gangland warfare episodes of hiring hitmen for some vicious intention that have occurred before.

Based on this premise, the court decided that the charge of “conspiracy to wound with intent” could not be established. Instead, Ching was convicted of “conspiracy to wound,” which carries a lighter penalty and shorter maximum sentence.

Netizens slammed the ruling as absurd and mocked the Hong Kong’s judiciary for being a laughingstock. They questioned the judge’s implicit boasting of violence as an encouragement to settle disputes through private duels. The judge’s assertion that the defendant’s behaviour by indiscriminately beating anyone in sight is something “positive” and indeed “helping” the victims in their future endeavours is utterly untenable.

After the verdict, Ching Wai-ming, 63, was remanded in custody and will return to court on Oct. 27 to plead for leniency and await sentencing. The prosecution revealed that Ching had 12 prior criminal records involving triad activities and violence.

Including Ching, a total of eight people “clad in white” have been convicted so far. Section 17 of the Offences against the Person Ordinance “conspiracy to wound with intent” (Wound 17) carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. When tried in the District Court the maximum penalty is seven years imprisonment. Section 19 (Wound 19) for conspiracy to wound, however, carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

Deputy District Judge Newman Wong Hing-wai pointed out that according to the video footage entered as evidence, he judged the situation at the Yuen Long Station concourse and platform from 10:40 to 11:14 on that night (July 21, 2019) to be consistent with the description provided by the prosecution.

In the beginning, at least 10 men in white clothing entered Yuen Long Station with canes and sticks to attack several men in black clothes. After the attack, the men dressed in white left Yuen Long Station.

Some while later, a  swarm of white-clothed men entered Yuen Long Station again, mostly holding wooden sticks and red flags, and then scolded the black-clothed men inside the gate, threw objects at them, slapped the gate, and beat the black-clothed men with sticks.

Afterwards, hundreds of men in white walked onto the platform with weapons, and chased, beat, and intimidated the passengers on the train.

The attack continued until the train left the platform. The judge ruled that the people in white gathered at Fung Yau Street on the night of July 21 and set out for Yuen Long Station, and affirmed that the people in white participated in the riot at Yuen Long Station. Their actions included attacking the black-clothed men and their companions, yelling, throwing objects at them, and slapping facilities, which violated social peace in public.

The judge pointed out that when the defendant entered Yuen Long Station for the first time, he and 5 to 8 other people attacked a man in grey. He did that with his bare hands and a cane, then slowly walked away looking smug.

The judge pointed out that when one witness was attacked in the passageway inside Yuen Long Station, the defendant also joined that “battalion” to attack him. Afterwards, more people in white arrived at the scene, and the defendant repeatedly waved at the newcomers to get more of his people to the platform.

The judge ruled that the defendant had participated in the riot at Yuen Long Station that day, attacked others many times, and encouraged other men in white to set off towards the platform, so he was convicted of rioting.

Judge: ‘Small Punishment as a Good Warning’

However, regarding the defendant’s other charge, conspiracy to wound with intent (Wound 17), Justice Wong said he believed that Ching had agreed to use force and physically harm the men in black and their companions’ but on the point of whether they conspired to do that and cause serious bodily injury to the victims, he had reservations about making that conclusion.

The judge believed that the attacker’s intention was to prevent the black-clothed men from going to Yuen Long and to use force to intimidate the other party. Such “small punishment as a good warning” may have achieved the purpose, which is different from the general gangland triad revenge of hiring a knifeman to hurt someone.

Although some witnesses pointed to a man in white sharpening a stick, the judge believed it was just an isolated incident. The judge said that the defendant did not hold a weapon when he first entered the station, and later just used a cane to attack, and the witnesses, in this case, were not the most seriously injured.

He also pointed out that if the prosecution wanted to prove that someone was seriously injured, it should give evidence of that. Based on this, the more serious charge of “conspiracy to wound with intent” could not be established, and the defendant was convicted of “conspiracy to wound” instead.

Upon hearing the verdict, netizens criticized the ruling as absurd and said Hong Kong’s judiciary has become a laughingstock. They even questioned the judge’s implicit boasting about using violence to settle private disputes. “Since there were no lethal weapons involved, should the defendant be awarded a ‘good citizen’ medal for his solemn act?”

Data shows that, more than three years after the Yuen Long attack, the Hong Kong police have arrested a total of 66 people, including 51 who dressed in white and 15 others. Among them, 10 people in white were charged, and eight people including Ching Wai-ming have been convicted to date. Of the eight non-white-clad who were charged, seven plan to plead not guilty. The remaining person will be re-tried in the District Court later.