Hong Kong prosecutors have charged 37 people with taking part in the street clashes in Mong Kok on Monday night.
Of the defendants, aged 17 to 70, only one was charged with illegal gathering at the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday, while the rest were charged with rioting, Apple Daily reported.
Several university students, including Edward Leung Tin-kei, a spokesman for localist group Hong Kong Indigenous and a candidate in upcoming Legislative Council by-election, and Koo Bok-him, incoming editor of the Hong Kong University Students’ Union publication Undergrad, were among those charged.
Four of defendants told the judge they suffered police brutality while being arrested and hoped the court would put that on record, while several others said they did not take part in the clashes at all.
More than 100 people, including police officers and protesters, were injured in the clashes which broke out after Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers tried to clear street hawkers from Portland Street.
A 23-year-old student of the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education, surnamed Cheung, said he was at the scene to shoot a video of the clashes but was arrested by police at 7 a.m. Tuesday when he was about leave.
All of them were granted bail of between HK$500 and HK$20,000 and were told to stay away from the area where the clashes took place, including Mong Kok Road, Fa Yuen Street, Shanghai Street and Dundas Street, to prevent similar incidents from occurring again.
More than 100 people were also in the court to show their support for the protesters.
They included foreigners, social activists and student leaders such as Scholarism convener Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Hong Kong University Students’ Union president Billy Fung Jing-en, and Occupy student leader Yvonne Leung Lai-kwok.
The hearings were adjourned until April 7 to allow the police to conduct further investigations and seek legal opinions.
Meanwhile, Scholarism member and Chinese University student Derek Lam Shun- hin, 22, who was arrested on Wednesday at Hong Kong International Airport when he was about to leave on a seven-day trip to Taipei with his family, will appear in Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court today.
Grenville Cross, former director of public prosecutions, said just watching or filming the scenes of clashes from the sidelines does not constitute participation in a riot, adding that it is the prosecutors’ responsibility to prove those charged with rioting took part in, assist in or instigate any riot behavior that involves actual breach of the peace.
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