HK accountant convicted of rioting after Yuen Long attack in 2019

A Hong Kong accountant has been found guilty of rioting in a case relating to the Yuen Long attack in 2019, marking the first time someone not involved in the initial attack was convicted over the events of that evening.

A heavy police presence was seen at Yuen Long MTR station on July 21, 2022, the third anniversary of the attack during the anti-extradition protests. File photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

District judge Clement Lee on Friday handed the guilty verdict to Jacky Ho, a 43-year-old accountant, over his role in a riot that happened in Yuen Long in the early hours of July 22, 2019. The judge rejected Ho’s claims that he had gone there “out of curiosity” after seeing livestreams of people wearing white attacking passengers the previous night and that he had turned violent out of self-defence.

On July 21 that year, more than 100 rod-wielding men – mostly dressed in white – stormed Yuen Long MTR station and attacked protesters and other passengers, leaving 45 people injured. Police were criticised over their alleged inaction.

The court previously heard that Ho went to the railway station after viewing clips of the attack and that he intended to “protect innocent people” from the attackers and to prevent crime.

district courtdistrict court
District Court in Wan Chai. File photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

But judge Lee said a group of “black-clad” people, which video footage showed Ho among, was also taking part in the riot around midnight in the station and in Ying Lung Wai, a walled village in Yuen Long. During the protests and unrest that rocked Hong Kong in 2019, black clothing became associated with the protesters.

“The white-clad were acting to ‘defend their villages,’ whilst the black-clad were seeking ‘revenge’ for those attacked earlier,” Lee said in Cantonese. “Both sides were clearly antagonistic and were returning violence with violence.”

The judge said the black-clad people should not have taken part in an illegal assembly, despite the earlier attack.

“[They] opted for an eye for an eye, and by doing so they had lost their moral high ground,” Lee added.

The judge dismissed Ho’s claims that he was not a part of any particular group, saying that Ho had described the people wearing white as “apparent triad members” and those in black as “innocent citizens” in his testimony.

Hong Kong police standing guard in Yuen Long MTR Station on March 21, 2020. File photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.Hong Kong police standing guard in Yuen Long MTR Station on March 21, 2020. File photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.
Hong Kong police standing guard in Yuen Long MTR Station on March 21, 2020. File photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

“The defendant’s testimony was not trustworthy and not reliable. He was no different from the white-clad people and was one of the rioters,” Lee said.

The judge also said that Ho had not left the scene despite being given ample opportunities, and that he had thrown a soda can and an umbrella towards the people in white, which Lee said were proof of his intention to join the riot.

“A person acting out of genuine curiosity, self-defence, or a view to prevent crime, would not actively participate in the confrontation and the ensuing conflict,” Lee added.

Prosecutors said the riot lasted between 10 and 20 minutes, and that it involved some 100 people at its peak. They added that the riot did not involve petrol bombs and that no injuries were reported.

Defence lawyers said the defendant was charged 23 months after he was arrested and that the “objective delay” had caused damage to his effort to live his life to the fullest.

The judge postponed the sentencing to next Wednesday and put Ho in custody.

Yuen Long July 21, 2021 policeYuen Long July 21, 2021 police
Uniformed officers guard a footbridge outside the Tung Tau Tsuen exit of the Yuen Long MTR Station. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

People sitting at the public gallery waved towards Ho and some told him to “hang in there” as he was led away by officers.

On July 21, 2019, over 100 rod-wielding men stormed Yuen Long MTR station leaving 45 people injured – including journalists, protesters, commuters and pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting. Police were criticised for responding slowly to the incident, with some officers seen leaving the scene or interacting with the white-clad men. The official account of the incident evolved over a year, with the authorities eventually claiming it was a “gang fight.”

Ho’s conviction marked the first time someone not involved in the mob attack on train passengers and protesters in Yuen Long on July 21 was found guilty of rioting in a case relating to the events of that evening. Ex-lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting and six others are also standing in a separate, ongoing trial over their roles in that night’s event.

As of February, 14 people among the group dressed in white had been charged with rioting while eight had been found guilty, according to news outlet The Witness.

Protests erupted in June 2019 over a since-axed extradition bill. They escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment. Demonstrators demanded an independent probe into police conduct, amnesty for those arrested and a halt to the characterisation of protests as “riots.” 

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