Six-year jail term for Edward Leung too heavy, says lawyer

October 10, 2019 16:49
Jailed localist activist Edward Leung arrives at the High Court aboard a prison van for the hearing of his appeal on Wednesday. Photo: HKEJ

Jailed localist activist Edward Leung Tin-kei, who was convicted of rioting in connection with the unrest in Mong Kok in 2016, was only fighting for the rights of street hawkers on the night of the incident and as such, the sentence handed to him was clearly too heavy, his lawyer told the Court of Appeal.

Leung, former spokesman of the localist group Hong Kong Indigenous, was sentenced to six years in jail in June last year for taking part in a riot and assaulting a police officer during the protests.

The clashes between protesters and police broke out on the night of Feb. 8, 2016, the first day of the Lunar New Year.

Leung later filed with the High Court an appeal against his sentence, along with co-defendants Lo Kin-man and Wong Ka-kui, who were also convicted and jailed. Lo also asked for the court’s permission to appeal his conviction.

In the hearing at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, senior counsel Lawrence Lok Ying-kam told the three-judge panel led by Acting Chief Justice of the High Court Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor that the first instance judge had mistakenly considered facts that were unrelated to Leung, such as the rioting on Portland Street, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.

In addition, the trial judge wrongly determined that Leung’s action that night was premeditated because he was wearing a helmet, a mask and goggles, the lawyer said.

The judge failed to consider the possibility that the incident might have only happened suddenly, and not planned or organized by Leung, Lok said, adding that the items Leung was wearing were not weapons but were only used for his protection.

Lok also pointed out that while Leung had been cleared of a second charge regarding his alleged involvement in a riot that took place on Portland Street that night, it was inappropriate for the judge to decide that Leung should bear part of the criminal liability.

The arson on Fife Street, mentioned during Leung’s sentencing, took place after his arrest and should not be used as a basis for his sentencing.

Refuting Lok's argument, Director of Public Prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin said that in the sentencing, the court must have considered all matters pertaining to the riot, and not just Leung's behavior. 

The court would also have to consider the number of people taking part, the level and scale of the violence involved, and the incidents that took place after the defendant was arrested, the top prosecutor said.

At the end of the hearing, the panel of judges said they would need some time to consider the arguments presented by both sides before they give a written decision at a later date.

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Hundreds of protesters, most of them wearing face masks, express their support for Edward Leung outside the High Court on Wednesday. Photo: AFP