A court in Hong Kong on Friday jailed a university graduate who tried to help a teenager shot in the chest with live ammunition by riot police during clashes in Tsuen Wan during the 2019 protest movement.
Yau Wang-tat was handed the sentence by the District Court after pleading guilty to “illegal assembly” charges, after they were downgraded from “rioting” charges.
Yau was arrested while trying to help teenager Tsang Chi-kin after he was shot in the chest with a live round by a policeman in Tsuen Wan on Oct. 1, 2019, his lawyer told the court.
Yau had also struggled to complete his degree in physics amid the pressure of the court case, but was ultimately successful, the lawyer said.
Deputy judge Li Chi-ho ruled that this made no difference to the outcome of the case, as the fact that some protesters had hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at police showed the protest must have been planned, and cited video footage of protesters restraining a police officer.
He handed down a 12-month prison term despite recognizing that Yau was of good character, and expressing “appreciation” for his “hard work.”
Yau appeared calm when the sentence was passed, waving goodbye to his friends and family in the public gallery.
“I can still feel you all watching me, and that feeling will carry me forwards, my back looking back at the past,” he wrote in a social media post after the sentencing.
“In this dark history, we are hidden, yet leave footprints,” he said. “This brief flash of brilliance may have been buried by the onslaught of history, but it shattered the totality of the dark.”
“That’s why we have to do our best to live our lives today, because the past is at our backs, watching us.”
He called on people not to fear the “Great Wall” of CCP political control over the daily lives of Hongkongers.
“Just flatten it; it won’t be enough to keep you from freedom,” he wrote.
Tsang was 18 years old at the time of his shooting, which left a bullet lodged just 3 centimeters from his heart.
More than a million Hongkongers took to the streets on June 9, 2019, launching a mass protest movement that started with widespread opposition to plans to allow extradition to mainland China, and broadened into calls for full democracy and official accountability, as well as protests over unprecedented police violence.
Beijing has since imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong, launching an ever-widening crackdown on public dissent and political opposition that has seen dozens of former opposition lawmakers and democracy activists detained for “subversion” for taking part in a democratic primary in 2020.
The mass public protests — which Beijing claims were incited by hostile foreign powers fomenting a “color revolution” in Hong Kong — and the sometimes violent responses by protesters to widespread and excessive police violence, were cited as the main reason for the new regime.
The Hong Kong government has said it will push ahead with further legislation on espionage and other “covert” activities.
Oaths of allegiance to the Hong Kong and Chinese governments are now required for anyone holding public office, while dozens of pro-democracy politicians have been expelled from the Legislative Council (LegCo) and the District Council in recent months, after an administration official judged their oaths invalid.
Electoral changes brought in after a landslide victory for pro-democracy candidates in November 2019 will ensure that no pro-democracy candidates will be approved to run in the forthcoming LegCo election, while the proportion of candidates chosen by a Beijing-backed committee has grown.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.