Thursday, February 1, 2024

A guilty verdict in a trial involving actor Gregory Wong gets people thinking that so much, if not everything, is wrong!

Still image of Gregory Wong at Admiralty from 
This has been one of the weeks where so much has happened (including announcements that make people realize that the dreaded Article 23 may be pushed through faster than many of us had hoped) that I lost track of the days and thought for a time yesterday that today was going to be Friday, only to realize after a while that today's still just Thursday.  But let me focus today's blog post on just one subject: today's judgement by Magistrate Li Chi-ho at the end of a 34 trial in which six defendants stood accused of "rioting" on July 1st, 2019.  
Firstly, let's note for the record that Magistrate Li found four of the defendants, including actor Gregory Wong, guilty as charged.   We'll get back to Gregory Wong shortly but here's focusing now on the two defendants found not guilty of rioting: Wong Ka-ho, who was then a a reporter with a student publication at the City University of Hong Kong; and Ma Kai-chung, who then was a reporter with Passion Times.  Sadly, they did not get off scott free.  Specifically, Magistrate Li found the duo guilty of  "entering or staying in the precincts of the [Legislative Council] chamber" that a number of pro-democracy protestors had illegally stormed that day.
A reminder in a Hong Kong Free Press article about today's judgement of that event that was labelled "Taking Back the Legislature" (the title of a 2020 documentary film that I managed to view but which is no longer allowed to be screened in public in Hong Kong): "That night, protesters occupied the government building, smashing windows and spray-painting protest slogans on the walls. Some left by around 11 pm, according to the case details.  Police officers did not stop the storming. By the time officers entered the building, all protesters had left, according to a police watchdog report" (my emphasis).
As early as the night of July 1st, 2019, itself, people were pondering the following:"Seems possible, even probable, that the police and authorities in Hong Kong purposely retreated to create the circumstances and images that would justify a stronger backlash. Surely they had the means and the force to prevent the legislature being stormed... if they wanted to."  (This from France 24 journalist, James Creedon.)  
A little over a week later, Stephen Vines's July 9th, 2019, Hong Kong Free Press piece was headlined: Was Hong Kong's protestors' occupation of the legislature a dangerous trap laid by the police?" and in it, he noted that Fernando Cheung -- one of the many pro-democracy legislators (including the jailed  since February 28th, 2021, likes of Claudia Mo and Lam Cheuk-ting) who had tried in vain to stop protestors from breaking into the Legislative Council building -- had suggested precisely that.  And today's judgement looks to have proven Fernando Cheung, now no longer in Hong Kong (and, instead, one of the many Hongkongers who have emigrated in recent years to Canada) right.
Returning to Gregory Wong: he had pleaded not guilty and "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."  And yet he was found guilty.  

The case magistrate, according to a Reuters report, "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"."  According to an Associated Press (AP) report, magistrate Li also noted that Wong "had hugged a protester before leaving the chamber as an expression of support."  From this, magistrate Li surmised that Wong's “intention of entering the legislature is obvious, it is to join this riot"!

Also note what happened to another of the defendants, as detailed in the AP piece: Lam Kam-kwan "was convicted of rioting and a separate charge of criminal damage Thursday, had been detained in mainland China in August 2019 and had been forced to write a repentance letter. Lam said some Hong Kong police officers later met him and told him that if he would not admit his wrongdoing, he then could not return to the city."  Does that sound like a forced confession to you?  Because that's what it sounds like to me!
For the record: this was a jury-less trial.  I can imagine a trial by jury producing different verdicts.  So, yeah, it can feel when reading judgements like today's that, to quote a lawyer in a legal drama that did involve a jury trial -- and which I described in my review of it as representing "wishful thinking or plain fantasy on the part of its makers.  Or, alternatively, a reminder of how justice should be served" -- like "Everything is wrong", sadly enough! :(

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