A 19-year-old student has been given 12 months’ probation for vandalising the office of a pro-Beijing lawmaker in Hong Kong, after the politician was filmed shaking hands with men who were later suspected to be linked with an indiscriminate mob attack at a railway station during last year’s social unrest.
Anson Chu Pui-hang was spared jail at Sha Tin Court on Monday for smashing a glass wall with a metal stand at Junius Ho Kwan-yiu’s branch office in Tsuen Wan on July 22.
He committed the offence one day after a white-clad mob attacked protesters and railway passengers at Yuen Long MTR station, leaving at least 45 people injured.
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Ho, a rural leader, was seen in a video shaking hands with men in white T-shirts and thanking them on the night in question. The video went viral on social media.
Ho has since distanced himself from the assailants, but said on July 22 that their actions could be pardoned because they were merely “defending their home and people”.
At 4pm that day, protesters went on a rampage at Ho’s office in Tsuen Fung Centre by breaking windows and wrecking surveillance cameras and other property.
Prosecutors revealed that the damage had cost Ho HK$112,114 (US$14,500) to repair, while his assistants had difficulty in arranging insurance for the office since the incident because no company was willing to offer it a contract.
Chu, who holds a Canadian passport, was arrested on September 16 after police investigated security footage at the scene. He told officers under caution that he had vandalised Ho’s office “for fun”.
He pleaded guilty to criminal damage before acting principal magistrate Jason Wan Siu-ming on June 30.
Pre-sentencing reports said Chu, who suffered from hyperactivity disorder, had committed the crime out of impulse as he was emotionally disturbed by the July 21 attack.
Wan accepted the probation officer’s recommendation and sentenced the student to probation in view of his clear record and genuine remorse.
“The court believes that the defendant had committed the offence because of his immature mindset, especially when he had difficulty in handling his emotions due to his mental disease… The court, instead of punishing juveniles, should look to help them turn over a new leaf,” Wan said.
In response, Ho told the Post that Monday's sentence was not enough to deter offenders in future protests.
"[The court] should deliver an important message ... of how such offences had shaken up the society ... The court should not pass a lenient sentence," Ho said in a telephone interview.
He said he stood by his July 22 remarks, insisting that black-clad protesters had done more wrong than the white-clad men by provoking the latter into resorting to violent means to protect themselves.
"If those white-clad people assault others, I think they should take three-tenths of the blame for using violence ... But for those black-clad people, I think they should take nine-tenths of the blame."
Meanwhile, co-defendant Chen Pak-yi also pleaded guilty to the same charge on Monday for his role in the July 22 incident.
The magistrate remanded the 32-year-old jobless man after learning that he had six previous convictions, the earliest dating back to 2004. Chen will be sentenced on August 24.
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