Hong Kong court convicts four for rioting after 2019 legislature storming

Actor Gregory Wong arrives at the court in Hong Kong
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By Jessie Pang and Edward Cho

HONG KONG (Reuters) -A Hong Kong court on Thursday found four people guilty of rioting after the legislature of the financial centre was stormed during pro-democracy protests in 2019.

The verdict comes after eight others had already plead guilty to charges over the incident when hundreds of protesters besieged Hong Kong's Legislative Council building on July 1, 2019.

The incursion into the seat of government for the Chinese Special Administrative Region followed a protest march against a proposed extradition bill that would have allowed authorities to send individuals to mainland China for trial.

District Court Judge Li Chi-ho found four people including Ho Chun-yin, actor Gregory Wong, Ng Chi-yung and Lam Kam-kwan guilty of rioting. Ho, who suffers from mild intellectual disability, cried inside the courtroom after the verdict was read.

Lam was also convicted of criminal damage, while reporters Wong Ka-ho and Ma Kai-chung were acquitted of rioting but found guilty of "entering or staying in the precincts of the chamber".

Judge Li wrote in a verdict that he did not deny that Wong Ka-ho and Ma Kai-chung were reporting, but disagreed with their belief that reporters could stay and record the incident.

During the trial, Gregory Wong told the court he entered the legislative council solely to deliver two chargers to reporters who were covering the break-in by protesters.

According to video evidence played by the prosecution, Wong left the chamber immediately after delivering the chargers to a reporter in a yellow vest.

Judge Li said Wong could have met the reporter outside the Legislative Council, so as to not "take risk to get in, and serve the purpose of helping others".

"I did not ignore his identity as an artist," Judge Li wrote. "With his own fame, he can attract the attention of demonstrators, so as to promote, assist or encourage the riots."

Another defendant, Lam Kam-kwan, told the court he was detained in China in August 2019 following the storming of Legco during which he was forced to write a repentance letter.

Three Hong Kong police officers met him in Shenzhen and said he had to cooperate or else he would not be able to return to Hong Kong. Police officers denied his claims during a cross-examination by the defence.

Eight people who earlier plead guilty to rioting included the former president of the University of Hong Kong's student union, Althea Suen, and pro-democracy activists Ventus Lau and Owen Chow.

Hong Kong's district court sets a maximum of seven years in prison for rioting.

(Reporting by Jessie Pang and Edward Cho; Editing by Farah Master and Lincoln Feast)