Protest and punishment: How thousands of demonstrators are set to face Hong Kong’s court system

With the onset of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, fewer people are taking to the streets in Hong Kong – but for prosecuted protesters, the work is just getting started. By the end of January 2020, over 7,000 people had been arrested in connection with the protests, about 1,000 charged, and 20 sentenced. Common charges are criminal damage, possession of an offensive weapon, assaulting the police, obstructing the police, participating in an unlawful assembly, and participating in a riot.

Hong Kong lawyer claims prosecution of protesters is politically motivated

// Wilson Leung from Hong Kong's Progressive Lawyers' Group told Euronews' Good Morning Europe show that the involvement of his profession in today's march underlines the seriousness of the threat to democracy. "The concern that the legal community has is whether the prosecutions in the Department of Justice are being conducted fairly because pretty alarmingly there are signs that political considerations are at play," he said. "There has been an open letter from anonymous prosecutors in the department saying that the head of the department is using political considerations. "There is also heavy widespread use of colonial-era rioting charges; these are very draconian, and the highest penalty of ten years imprisonment can be used. "Contrast that with the lighter treatment of the suspected gangsters involved in the attack (on pro-democracy protesters) in Yuen Long three weeks ago: 19 people were arrested, they were not formally charged and the offence they were charged with was unlawful assembly. "This really contrasts with the treatment of pro-democracy protesters."

法政匯思:暴動法懶人包 (Riot Info Pack)

咩係暴動?刑罰又係點?點做陪審員?物資、家長有無風險?法政匯思懶人包 Part 1 先講暴動法! What is a "riot"? What is the penalty for taking part in a riot? How do I become a juror? Are there any risks associated with supplies and being a "driver"? Here comes PLG's lazy pack part 1 on rioting (parts 2 and 3 to come soon)!

Hong Kong Police Face Mounting Criticism Over Use of Force on Protesters

But Progressive Lawyers Group convenor Billy Li said the concept of adesignated "riot" is legally meaningless. "Anything can be designated a riot where a group of people gather together and act to disturb public order," Lee said. "If it breaches the peace, even if they don't resort to extreme behavior such as throwing bricks or burning tires, as long as there are clashes, this can constitute a 'riot'."

The problem with calling Hong Kong’s protests a riot goes back to a colonial-era law

Under current law, any unlawful assembly can be deemed a riot if anyone taking part in it commits a “breach of the peace.” The Progressive Lawyers Group, which advocates for the rule of law and democracy in Hong Kong, has noted that this “is a very low threshold which is not commensurate with the heavy penalty it imposes.” Similarly, the Hong Kong Universal Periodic Review Coalition, an alliance of local civil society groups that delivers human rights status reports to the UN, has pointed out that prosecutors have wide discretion to define an act as a riot.