A convicted felon has been jailed for rioting for the second time in five years after being found guilty of taking part in violent clashes around Polytechnic University in 2019.
Customer service operator Lin Yun-faat, 31, was convicted on Tuesday of rioting and using a facial covering at an unlawful assembly near the junction of Nathan Road and Waterloo Road in Yau Ma Tei on November 18, after the District Court found he had strengthened the momentum of the rioting crowd by his presence.
Three of his co-defendants, student Loo Jun-kun, 23, construction site surveyor Wong San-man, 27, and lighting technician Cheng Shun-tat, 40, were acquitted.
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Lin had only been out of jail for a matter of months when one of the most violent incidents of the anti-government protests took place, having served three years for rioting in Mong Kok in February 2016, when more than 100 police officers were injured after a hawker-control operation went wrong.
In mitigation, defence counsel Thomas Iu Poon-shing said Lin did not play a leadership role, carry any offensive weapons, or throw any bricks or petrol bombs in the present case.
Judge Josiah Lam Wai-kuen said the essence of the charges of unlawful assembly and rioting lay in the participants acting in large numbers and using those numbers to achieve a common purpose.
He concluded that Lin knew there were people throwing bricks and petrol bombs at the police near the junction, but still “chose to attach himself to the rioting crowd”, equipped with a helmet, a face mask and a pair of gloves.
“He surely wanted to be part of such a crowd,” the judge said. “[His attachment] practically encouraged and supported those who had been breaching the peace with violence.”
But Lam also noted there was no evidence suggesting Lin had played an important role in the riot, or that there had been any injuries or property damage.
Lin was jailed for four years on the rioting charge and six months for his use of a face mask, with both terms to be served concurrently.
Prosecutors alleged all four defendants were among 10 protesters who ran into a side street next to a Yoshinoya restaurant near the junction in Yau Ma Tei having just taken part in a riot involving more than 100 people.
The judge, however, observed that security camera footage suggested Loo and Wong could have entered the side street from an alley and not Nathan Road as alleged.
He also accepted Cheng’s “reasonable and credible” testimony that he was drunk that night after a late meal with a friend and was on his way to a massage parlour when he passed by and was arrested.
Rioting is punishable by 10 years in prison, but the term is capped at seven years when the case is heard at the District Court.
Loo was fined HK$2,000 over his failure to produce proof of identity on demand, which he admitted but did not explain why.
This article Hong Kong protests: convicted felon who took part in clashes near Polytechnic University in 2019 jailed for rioting for second time in five years first appeared on South China Morning Post