A Hong Kong man who was shot by police during pro-democracy protests in 2019 was sentenced Wednesday to 47 months in prison on charges of rioting, assaulting a police officer and perverting the course of justice, in the latest court ruling that severely punished participants in the anti-government movement.
Tsang Chi-kin was the first known victim of police gunfire during the months-long protests beginning in June 2019. Then a secondary school student, he was shot at close range after he swung at a police sergeant with a rod. His shooting further inflamed already widespread public anger against the police, who were condemned as being heavy-handed in quelling the unrest.
Tsang was charged with rioting and assaulting police. But after he was released on bail, he failed to appear in court. In October 2020, he tried to seek asylum at the U.S. Consulate but was turned away.
He hid in various locations in the city with assistance from members of a YouTube channel that was critical of the Hong Kong government, and then attempted unsuccessfully to flee by boat to Taiwan. He was recaught by police in July 2022.
Deputy District Judge Ada Yim said the sentencing had to reflect the court’s determination to safeguard public order. She said Tsang was well-prepared for his acts as shown by the gear he was carrying, including the metal rod, and that he ignored a police warning.
Tsang, 22, appeared calm as the sentence was delivered. Yim said he had written in a mitigation letter that he regretted his acts. He cooperated with the police investigation after his arrest in 2022, and that showed he was sincerely remorseful, she said.
Yim also sentenced two other defendants who skipped their court proceedings and hid with Tsang, one to 10 months in jail and the other to a correctional training center. She gave a fourth defendant who helped hide the trio a 20-month jail term.
The 2019 protest movement was the most concerted challenge to the Hong Kong government since the former British colony returned to China’s rule in 1997. It was sparked by a proposed extradition law that would have allowed Hong Kong criminal suspects to be sent to the mainland for trial.
The government later withdrew the bill, but the protesters widened their demands to include direct elections for the city’s leaders and police accountability.
The unrest eventually waned with the arrests and exile of democracy activists, the COVID-19 pandemic and Beijing’s imposition of a tough national security law on the territory.