Hong Kong, October 31 (ANI): Seven more accused of rioting during the major pro-democracy protest in August, last year -- against the now draconian National Security Law imposed by the Chinese Communist Party on Hong Kong -- have been acquitted of all charges by a Hong Kong Court.
The latest verdict now brings the total number of acquittals on riot charges to 11 and only one protestor has been found guilty of rioting since the pro-democracy movement gripped the city in June 2019, with four others convicted after pleading guilty, the South China Morning Post reported.
According to the South China Morning Post, District Judge Sham Siu-man on Saturday said that there was no evidence showing what the defendants did before their arrests in Wan Chai and ruled their presence alone was not enough to justify a conviction, even if they had been dressed in black and equipped with protective gear.
"Undoubtedly, the situation of the night in question was not something that one would often see in Hong Kong. To some people, it was perhaps a rare and special historical moment. The Court does not rule out the possibility that, among those present, there were indeed some who went there hoping to witness everything that was happening," the judge said, as quoted by South China Morning Post.
"Their being participants of the riot is not the only reasonable inference," he said and concluded, "The court is of the view that the prosecution has failed to prove the offences beyond reasonable doubt and therefore the court finds all the defendants not guilty."
A round of applause erupted in the courtroom as the judge announced the acquittal verdict. Many supporters were also present outside the building, thanking the lawyers and cheering the acquitted. "There are no rioters," they chanted.
The same court also had dismissed the charge against their co-defendant, 42-year-old social worker Jackie Chen Hung-sau, after finding prosecutors failed to prove a prima facie case against her when they accused her of rioting. However, she may have to face another trial.
Saturday's District Court case focused on the pro-democracy protests that violent clashes around the junction of Hennessy Road and Luard Road on August 31, last year where protesters assembled in the area. The police had responded with tear gas and water cannon and arrested 142 people that day.
As of October 15, police have arrested more than 10,100 people and charged 2,285 of them, with 691 among them facing a riot charge.
The national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong criminalises any act of secession (breaking away from China), subversion (undermining the power or authority of the central government), terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison. It came into effect from July 1. (ANI)