Former Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, along with six other co-defendants, pleaded not guilty on Monday to rioting during the Yuen Long mob attack in July 2019. Meanwhile, two news clips of protests in other parts of the city were admitted as evidence to reveal the “overall circumstances” at the time.

Lam Cheuk-ting
Lam Cheuk-ting. File Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Lam was arrested in August 2020 and charged with with participating in a riot in Yuen Long on July 21, 2019. That night, dozens of rod-wielding men wearing white shirts – reportedly with triad connections – gathered in Yuen Long MTR station, attacking commuters and protesters.

Lam, who was among those assaulted, was accused of going to Yuen Long with the express purpose of provoking the white-clad men.

Wearing a suit jacket over a white shirt, he appeared before Judge Stanley Chan at the District Court on Monday morning alongside Yu Ka-ho, Jason Chan, Yip Kam-sing, Kwong Ho-lam, Wan Chung-ming, and Marco Yeung. All seven pleaded not guilty.

district court
Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

Standing in the dock, Lam said: “I did not participate in a riot, I plead not guilty,” to which Judge Chan replied that the case was a criminal proceeding, and that defendants did not need to say anything other than whether they pleaded guilty or not.

Lam has been remanded in custody since March 2021 over a separate national security case. The democrat, along with 46 other pro-democracy figures – including lawmakers and activists – stands accused of conspiring to commit subversion over his role in an unofficial primary election for the 2020 Legislative Council election, which was later postponed.

Relevance of HK Island protests

On Monday, the prosecution played two news broadcast clips of protests on the day of the Yuen Long attack to demonstrate the “broader environment” surrounding the rioting allegations.

Yuen Long MTR
Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

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.” 

The prosecution claimed that the seven defendants had arrived in Yuen Long that night by MTR from Central, Causeway Bay, Wanchai, and Tsim Sha Tsui. Other districts including Admiralty and Sheung Wan also saw violent protests that evening.

Lam’s lawyer said she did not doubt the accuracy of the news reports, but called into question whether protests on Hong Kong Island were relevant to the case at hand.

She argued that protests in other parts of the city could not have had a direct effect on what happened in Yuen Long that night, and that the prejudicial effect brought about by the news clips would outweigh their evidential value, threatening the fairness of the trial.

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She also said the prosecution was trying to “cast a wide net” by entering video clips irrelevant to its own submission, which only contained details about Yuen Long.

Judge Chan eventually admitted the two videos as evidence, saying that the court could not consider the Yuen Long incident in isolation from the protests that were happening across the city. He said the news clips were relevant to the case, and were an objective record of what had happened.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

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James is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He has a bachelor’s degree in English at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, with a minor in Journalism. He was previously a reporter at The Standard.