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17 people received prison sentences of up to 5 years and 10 months

17 people received prison sentences of up to 5 years and 10 months

Seventeen people have been given prison sentences ranging from one year and eight months to five years and 10 months after being convicted of dramatic rope escapes from a besieged Hong Kong university during the 2019 protests.

Protesters lower themselves on a rope from a bridge to a highway to escape the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus and police in Hong Kong's Hung Hom district on November 18, 2019.  Dozens of Hong Kong protesters escaped a two-day police siege on a campus late November 18 by swinging down a rope from a bridge to waiting motorcycles in a dramatic and dangerous escape that followed a renewed warning from Beijing of a possible intervention to to put an end to the crisis that engulfed the city.  Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP.Protesters lower themselves on a rope from a bridge to a highway to escape the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus and police in Hong Kong's Hung Hom district on November 18, 2019.  Dozens of Hong Kong protesters escaped a two-day police siege on a campus late November 18 by swinging down a rope from a bridge to waiting motorcycles in a dramatic and dangerous escape that followed a renewed warning from Beijing of a possible intervention to to put an end to the crisis that engulfed the city.  Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP.
Protesters lower themselves down a rope from a bridge to a highway to escape the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus and police in Hong Kong’s Hung Hom district on November 18, 2019. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP.

District Judge Lily Wong on Tuesday imposed prison sentences on 17 people involved in daring attempts to flee Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) in mid-November 2019.

Dozens of protesters climbed down ropes from a walkway to flee the campus in Hung Hom, which was surrounded by police amid violent clashes between demonstrators and officers. Some people drove cars and motorcycles to pick up the protesters, and many vehicles were intercepted by police as they tried to leave the scene.

Lin Bin, Chan Chun-fung, Mak To and Lee Man-hei, who pleaded guilty to rioting before the start of the trial, were each sentenced to three years and eight months in prison. An earlier allegation of perverting the course of justice was filed in court and was not prosecuted by the prosecutor.

The remaining defendants were convicted for attempting to pervert the course of justice after the trial.

Ng Wai-nam, Leung Cheuk-fung, Leung Wing-yan, Lau Shuk-wa, Tom Wong, Lam Yam-to, Cheok Yuen-yi and Lai Ching-yin were also found guilty of rioting. Everyone except Cheok was sentenced to 70 months behind bars. Cheok’s prison sentence was reduced to 60 months because she was a minor at the time of the crime.

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Protest scene inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in November 2019. Photo: Tam Ming Keung/United Social Press.

Ho Ying-kit, Sin Wang-chun, Lam Sze-nga and Cheung Chung-hee, who faced only the perverting of justice offense, were each sentenced to 20 months in prison.

Chan Chun-yeung, who pleaded guilty to an additional charge of dangerous driving, was jailed for two years.

The case initially involved two suspects, who had previously been sentenced to a training center.

In jailing the defendants, Wong said authorities had issued daily warnings urging the public not to attend PolyU. The defendants had been “stubborn” and ignored such warnings, the judge said, concluding that they must have been on the side of the “black-clad” protesters.

“They agreed with the violence,” Wong said in Cantonese, adding that some of the defendants, who had been PolyU students, were responsible for “destroying their school campus.”

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Protest scene inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University in November 2019. Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

The judge said the suspects had attempted to evade arrest with their escape attempt, which “seriously undermined the administration of justice.”

Under Hong Kong law, rioting is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, although prison sentences imposed by the district court are limited to seven years.

Tuesday’s sentencing was held in the court’s largest courtroom, designed for up to 50 suspects and in which the view of the dock is partially restricted. Those sitting in the seats on the right side of the courtroom must rely on a video livestream to get a clear view of the judge and the suspects.

As a result, relatives and friends of the defendants had to rise from their seats or swarm to the back of the defense counsel’s desk to wave to their loved ones. Some also made a heart gesture with their hands.

Protests broke out in June 2019 over a since-abandoned extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent expressions of dissent over police behavior, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s invasion. The demonstrators demanded an independent investigation into police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and an end to the characterization of protests as “riots.”

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