Five Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) students were sentenced to up to 4 years and 11 months in prison for taking part in protests. The charges included rioting and breaching a mask-ban on the campus two years ago.
In mid-2019, tens of thousands took to the streets to protest the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms. The campus of CUHK also became a major flashpoint on Nov. 11, 2019, when protesters threw petrol bombs at police officers on a bridge, who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas.
Later in the afternoon, anti-riot police arrested the five students near CUHK’s Postgraduate Hall, a location close to the bridge. They seized a metal hammerhead from Foo Hoi-ching and a spanner from Hui Yi-chuen.
Despite the lack of evidence of the students’ specific involvement in the riots, deputy district judge Kathie Cheung said the defendants must have “intended” to participate in the violence or “encouraged” others to take part in it, local media Standnews reported on Oct. 19.
The five were dressed similarly to other protesters who were on the scene, and they must have heard about the protests from media reports, according to the report, citing Cheung’s words at the West Kowloon Court on Oct. 19.
The four male defendants were sentenced to jail for 4 years and 9 months. The only female defendant, Foo Hoi-ching, received an extra two months. Foo was prosecuted while on bail from another case.
During the mitigation pleas on Oct. 19, Foo said she didn’t regret what she had done, saying the court disregarded the reason behind the riots.
“In my eyes, the authoritarian doesn’t represent correctness,” Foo said before the court, according to the report.
“The law under the authoritarian regime is nothing but a nonviolent approach to control people’s behavior, and the court is not a place to deliver justice.
“Here is just a place to express concerns about the social orders on the surface level, instead of focusing on the fundamental reasons for the social unrest.”
Mass protests were triggered in mid-2019 after the city government announced plans to allow extradition to mainland China. The protests later morphed into a broader movement demanding greater democracy and freedoms in the face of the CCP’s growing control over Hong Kong. Over several months, millions of people protested; they were often met with riot police who fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse them.
As of February, police officers have arrested more than 10,000 people related to the anti-extradition protests, according to the Hong Kong Department of Justice. More than 2,600 are currently or have finished going through the judicial process.
The city also reported fatalities connected to police actions in the continuing pro-democracy movement in 2019. A 22-year-old student died from his injuries after falling one story from a parking garage where police had fired tear gas to disperse protesters, in November 2019.