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Rule of LawHong Kong

Hong Kong: 12 sentenced for storming legislature in 2019

March 16, 2024

Twelve people were jailed for up to seven years for storming the Hong Kong legislature in July 2019. Two journalists were acquitted of rioting but fined for unlawfully entering the legislative council chamber.

Protesters breaking a glass window of the parliament chamber in 2019
Hundreds had entered the legislature premises in July 2019Image: Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images

A court in Hong Kong on Saturday sentenced 12 people to jail for up to seven years for the storming of the city's legislature during pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Many in the public gallery were in tears as the defendants waved to them while being led away after the sentencing.

Hundreds of people broke into the Hong Kong legislature on the night of July 1, 2019. The protesters smashed windows and spray-painted graffiti to mark 22 years since Hong Kong was handed over to China by the British. This was the most violent episode in the protests, which led to the imposition of the controversial national security law as a crackdown on dissent.

Beijing's ever-tightening grip on Hong Kong

Who was convicted

Initially, 14 people were charged with rioting and other offenses, punishable by up to a decade in prison, as well as criminal damage and unlawful entry into the legislative chamber.

Following convictions, 12 defendants received sentences ranging from 6.5 to 7 years behind bars. However, the actual periods will be slightly reduced, falling between 54 to 82 months, due to various factors such as guilty pleas.

Actor Gregory Wong was among those sentence; he was jailed for six years and two months after pleading not guilty. 

Activists Ventus Lau and Owen Chow, who had pleaded guilty, received terms of 54 months and 20 days, and 61 months and 15 days, respectively.   

"A riot is the language of the unheard," Chow told the court, quoting US civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr.

Former president of the University of Hong Kong's student union, Althea Suen, who had pleaded guilty, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison.

Student reporter Wong Ka-ho and online media reporter Ma Kai-chung were acquitted of rioting. They were fined up to HK$1,500 (€174, $192) for unlawfully entering or remaining in the legislative council chamber.

"Aside from the actual damage to the building, it had a symbolic meaning ... challenging the Hong Kong government and even weakening its governance," Deputy Judge Li Chi-ho of the District Court said.

He also condemned the protesters for tearing up copies of the constitutional text, the Basic Law and displaying colonial-era flags. 

After the 2019 protests, authorities clamped down and arrested more than 10,000 people. Many pro-democracy activists have been arrested and punished, while others have escaped abroad. Several society groups and outspoken media outlets have been disbanded.

Last week, Hong Kong authorities released a draft of a new national security law expected to pass within weeks.

tg/sms (AFP, Reuters)