4 Hong Kong men jailed for up to 3 years and 2 months over chat group calling for killing of police, anti-epidemic personnel

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4 Hong Kong men jailed for up to 3 years and 2 months over chat group calling for killing of police, anti-epidemic personnel

Four Hong Kong men have been jailed for up to three years and two months over a 14-person online messaging group that called for the killing of police officers and anti-epidemic personnel.

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

Chan Sze-lok, Lee Ho-yuen, Wong Yuu-ro and Choi Kai-min appeared at the District Court on Thursday afternoon. They pleaded guilty last December to conspiring to wound with intent and other charges between February 8 and May 7, 2022.

According to the case details, the four were members of a group on instant messaging app Telegram with the Cantonese name “Rather die on my feet than live on my knees.”

Messages in the group urged attacks on, and the murder of, police officers and anti-epidemic personnel. The posts also suggested making explosives, printing 3D guns, breaching anti-epidemic rules, and blowing up Covid-19 testing centres.

All four of them were charged with conspiring to wound with intent. Chan also faced a charge of engaging in acts with seditious intent, while Lee and Wong faced a charge of conspiring to engage in acts with seditious intent. Wong in addition was charged with possessing dangerous drugs and possessing arms and ammunition without a licence.

Telegram messaging app
Telegram app. File photo: Amin Moshrefi, via Unsplash.

Chan, a warehouse assistant who was 35 at the time of the offence, was handed the longest sentence of three years and two months. Judge Ernest Lin said Chan was not just the administrator of the group but also played a leadership role in conversations, InMedia reported.

He spread fictitious messages to justify his opposition to the government’s policies, Lin said.

The group had 14 members, according to case details.

Reviving ‘ashes’ of the 2019 protests

Upon delivering the sentences, Lin said the defendants’ messages were “an attempt to revive the ashes” of the protests in 2019, when demonstrations against a controversial extradition bill occasionally descended into violent clashes between protesters and police.

“[Their words]… attempted to instigate people who are not satisfied with society and destroy existing systems,” Lin said, adding that the messages were “not much different” from those of terrorists.

Covid-19 test
Covid-19 testing booths. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Lee was handed the second-longest jail sentence at two years and five months. Lin said that he had talked about making petrol bombs and explosives in the group, and that his participation level was “not low.”

Even though he was not yet 18 at the time of the offence, youth was “not an excuse” to act recklessly, Lin added.

Lin said that the third defendant, Wong, had shared three “seditious” posts, including items relating to residents in Shanghai attacking anti-epidemic personnel. The judge considered that he did not raise any sophisticated plans or directly suggest attacking people. But Wong’s participation did encourage others to express more extreme views, Lin said as he sentenced him to two years in jail.

covid-19 covid shopping mall qr code
A shopping mall LeaveHomeSafe QR in Hong Kong on March 2. 2022. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Choi, who faced just one charge of conspiring to wound with intent, had taken part in discussions that opposed the government’s Covid-19 policies and talked about purchasing weapons. Lin said his level of participation was relatively low and jailed him for one year and four months.

Earlier, another defendant in the case who pleaded not guilty to conspiring to wound with intent was cleared of the charge.

Hong Kong enforced strict regulations during the Covid-19 pandemic including vaccination requirements to enter restaurants, group gathering restrictions and mandatory testing.

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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