Two Hong Kong nationals accused of riots in demonstrations acquitted

A Hong Kong couple, arrested in July last year during pro-democracy protests in the former British colony, were found not guilty on Friday of “participating in a riot”, a decision that could set jurisprudence for hundreds of other people prosecuted on the same charge. .

More than 9,000 people were detained following the start in June 2019 of an unprecedented protest movement in the semi-autonomous region since its retrocession to China in 1997.

Henry Tong, 39, and Elaine To, 41, had been charged with “involvement in a riot,” a rating that is punishable by seven years in prison.

But the District Court ruled Friday that there was no evidence that the couple had participated in the demonstration that took place on the day of their arrest.

Judge Anthony Kwok considered that this presumption could not be based on the simple fact that the two were dressed in black clothes, such as those worn by pro-democracy protesters.

“Black is the color that many inhabitants often wear,” he noted.

The defendants and their families broke down in tears at the announcement of the verdict.

“We are not going to celebrate it because there are many who are waiting for a just decision,” said Tong upon leaving the court.

He and his partner had been released on bail in August and later married.

This decision could be invoked by lawyers for 600 other people accused of “involvement in a riot” since last year.

The pro-democracy mobilization in Hong Kong, which emerged in June 2019 in rejection of a controversial bill to authorize extraditions to China, turned into a larger protest against Beijing’s role in the affairs of its region, which in theory enjoys of great autonomy until 2047.

Almost daily protests and actions in the city were often ended with violent clashes between radicals and riot forces.

Beijing last month imposed a controversial security law in Hong Kong in response to seeking to suppress any act of “subversion” and considerably tougher penalties. The pro-democracy movement presents the text as the latest blow against Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy.

su-yz / jac / mc / mis