|Hui Ka-ki, the first defendant of the Monk Kok riot, is escorted in a prison bus at the District Court, Wan Chai on March 17, 2017. (Roy Liu / China Daily)|
Rioting needs a deterrent sentence to send a message that such offenses will not be tolerated, a District Court judge said on Friday after sentencing three rioters to three years' imprisonment each for their role in the Mong Kok riot in February 2016.
In passing down the sentence, Justice Sham Siu-man stressed that "violence is violence", regardless of what purpose it is used for – as the harm it does to people and society will not change.
Sham also noted that anyone who participated in rioting would have to pay a price and that price could sometimes be high.
The trio – 23-year-old University of Hong Kong student Hui Ka-ki, 33-year-old cook Sit Tat-wing and 20-year-old student Mak Tsz-hei – were immediately sent to prison without bail.
They are the first batch of charged persons to be convicted of rioting in relation to the illegal assembly and subsequent violent confrontations.
During the riot in Mong Kok on the night of last year's Chinese New Year Day, hundreds of protesters intentionally threw bricks pried from the pavement at police officers. They also started fires on Nathan Road near Soy Street.
There is no doubt that the protesters were targeting police officers as they threw many glass bottles – clearly prepared beforehandSham Siu-man, District Court judge
The court was told the trio had hurled glass bottles and 2-meter-long bamboo sticks at police officers during violent clashes.
Elaborating on his ruling, Sham said most police officers who were called to the scene were not well-armed due to the emergency. Some who only had batons faced the threat of serious injuries as glass bottles and sharp sticks were hurled from many different directions.
"There is no doubt that the protesters were targeting police officers as they threw many glass bottles – clearly prepared beforehand, as it is not possible to get that many from the street – at police officers," Sham said.
After the sentencing, Chief Inspector Chan Shun-ching from the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau of the Hong Kong Police Force said the police welcomed the sentences. They demonstrated the seriousness of the incident, he added.
|Defendant Mak Tsz-hei (front) is escorted in a prison bus to the District Court, Wan Chai, March 17, 2017. (Roy Liu / China Daily)|
Chan stressed that law enforcers will not allow any violence to disrupt the peace and stability of society. They will enforce the law with great resolve if any illegal behavior occurs, he said.
According to the police, a total of 90 people were involved in the riot. Seventy-nine men and 11 women aged between 14 and 70 were arrested on various charges including rioting, arson, illegal assembly, assault, and resisting police officers.
READ MORE: No purpose justifies violence
In replying to China Daily's inquiry, a Department of Justice spokesperson said some 30 people had been charged with rioting in relation to the Mong Kok disturbance.
In January 2018, the High Court will also start a trial against Ray Wong Toi-yeung and Edward Leung Tin-kei – who allegedly led the riot – with eight other protesters for rioting, inciting rioting and inciting unlawful assembly.Contact the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com