A former student leader at the University of Hong Kong faces possible jail time after he was convicted for his acts during a protest in which students barged into a meeting of the HKU governing council on January 26 last year.
Billy Fung Jing-en, 23, president of the HKU Students’ Union in the 2015/16 academic year, had been charged with criminal intimidation, criminal damage and attempted forcible entry for his role in the chaotic siege that saw clashes between students and police, and left top officials of the council stranded inside a building for several hours.
The protest resulted from students’ demand for an immediate review of the university’s governance structure and to insulate it from political interference.
While Fung had pleaded not guilty to criminal intimidation but admitted the remaining charges, a magistrate on Thursday handed down a guilty verdict on an alternative charge – disorderly conduct in a public place, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Another student leader, Li Fung-kei, 21, was found guilty of resisting or obstructing public officers in the performance of a public duty as he tried to prevent a paramedic from carrying council member Leonie Ki Man-fung onto an ambulance.
The duo’s sentencing was adjourned to Sept. 21. The magistrate said they are likely to be imprisoned.
Seeking leniency from the court, Barrister Martin Lee, who represents the duo, said they do not deserve deterrent penalties as the chance of them repeating the offense is low, stressing that Fung acted out of good intention to push for reforms in the university.
Fung’s mother wrote a six-page mitigation letter for him. She notes that Fung is fully aware that his leukemia and brain tumor may return to him, so he always carries a card that says, “Please bring me back to HKU if I get lost”.
“[He] risks his life to defend his beloved HKU,” Lee read the letter tearfully. “He loves his school that much.”
Both defendants were granted bail but ordered not to leave Hong Kong, but Fung is allowed to register for his studies at the National Taiwan University between Sept. 4 and 10.
After the conviction, an HKU spokesperson said the university respects the court’s decision. Fung declined to comment.
The conviction may cost Fung the eligibility to become a teacher in the future, since the Education Bureau has the power under the Education Ordinance to reject any person who has been convicted of an offense punishable with imprisonment.
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