Hong Kong actor Gregory Wong did not take part in ‘extreme violence’ in 2019 legislature storming, court hears

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Hong Kong actor Gregory Wong did not take part in ‘extreme violence’ in 2019 legislature storming, court hears
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Hong Kong actor Gregory Wong, who was convicted of rioting inside the city’s legislature in 2019, did not take part in “extreme violence,” his lawyer has said during a mitigation hearing.

Gregory Wong on May 29, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

District Judge Li Chi-ho on Wednesday heard mitigation pleas from Wong and others found guilty earlier this month of rioting inside the Legislative Council building on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China during the 2019 extradition bill protests.

The key date in Hong Kong’s months-long protests saw protesters storming the government building in Admiralty by breaking glass windows and doors and scrawling protest slogans on the walls. Some also sprayed black paint on Hong Kong’s emblem inside the legislative chamber, while others vandalised the portraits of previous legislative presidents.

Li found Wong guilty after a 34-day trial which began last May. The case also involved well-known activists Ventus Lau and Owen Chow, and former University of Hong Kong student leader Althea Suen, all of whom pleaded guilty to rioting.

On Wednesday, Wong’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Lawrence Lok, read out parts of 17 mitigation letters penned by the actor’s family, friends and former principal. They described Wong as “friendly,” “empathetic” and “humble,” saying he had bought anti-epidemic supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic and distributed them to underprivileged groups.

July 1 china extradition protest
Photo: Isaac Yee/HKFP.

“[Wong] was very different from other people in the entertainment industry,” one mitigation letter read.

Lok submitted District Court judgements from other 2019 rioting cases to argue the court should consider imposing four years’ imprisonment on Wong. The maximum penalty for rioting is 10 years behind bars, but jail terms meted out by the District Court is capped at seven years.

Li said if the defence was pleading for a jail term of two or three years, it would be an “underestimation” of the severity of the case. Lok responded by saying he was asking the court to consider a four-year prison sentence.

He went on to say that the actor had not taken part in “extreme violence” and his level of participation was “rather low.”

The judge confirmed that there was no evidence to show that Wong was an “instigator” of the July 1 unrest.

july 1 legco storming china extradition (11)
Hundreds of protesters storm the Legislative Council. Photo: Thammakhun John Crowcroft/HKFP.

Activists Lau and Chow, who had no legal representatives, were supposed to make their mitigation pleas on Wednesday along with the other defendants. But judge Li said he wanted to get background reports on the pair before hearing their pleas.

Lau and Chow will return to court on March 6 after the reports are ready, while the sentencing for all defendants is set to take place on March 16.

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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