Following Tuesday’s bloody riots on the streets of Mong Kok, 37 people charged with rioting appeared in Hong Kong court earlier today.
The riot began as a street hawker protest in the busy shopping district of Mong Kok. It quickly escalated and turned into something much more when police put on protective gear and tried to clear one street of illegal fishball sellers. They were bombarded with bricks and bottles by masked activists, police responded with batons, pepper spray and even fired two warning shots in the air during the chaos.
64 people were arrested in connection with the “fishball revolution.” Police have charged 35 men and three women, aged 15 to 70, for their involvement in the riot. Meanwhile, 16 more were released on bail pending further investigation while another 10 remain detained.
Police consider rioting a serious offense with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The defendants appeared in court for the first time earlier today. SCMP reports that their cases have been adjourned to April 7th to allow for further investigation.
Derek Lam, an activist with Scholarism, was one of those arrested after the incident. He was picked up at the Hong Kong airport on Wednesday morning on the way to Taipei for a family trip. Scholarism released a statement saying that Lam was in Mong Kok only briefly that night and did not take part in the fights between protesters and police. They also went on to accuse police of searching Lam’s home without a warrant.
Other prominent defenders include Hong Kong Indigenous spokesman Edward Leung. HK Indigenous are believed to have played a critical role in the riot. The group says that police have been congregating around the home of their spokesman Ray Wong who released a video earlier today saying that it was “better to die in glory than live in dishonor.”
Additionally, Stephen Ku, the new editor-in-chief of The Undergrad, a University of Hong Kong student magazine has also been charged with rioting.
At the same time, some defendants are telling the court that the police used excessive force during arrests. According to SCMP, one defendant told his lawyer that police had ganged up on him and beat him to the ground.
“He was hit in the head with police batons, resulting in blood all over his face,” his lawyer told the court.
The lawyer also said that another of his clients told him that he had been kept awake for 40 hours by police before they took his statement.
The Kowloon City Court was packed with spectators to watch the proceedings. Among the crowd of more than 100 people was Scholarism leader Joshua Wong.