Tong says helmet use can be linked to riot charges

Top News | Cindy Wan 19 Jun 2019

Even without weapons in their hands, people wearing helmets to join clashes with police could be charged with rioting, says executive councillor Ronny Tong Ka-wah.

Speaking on radio yesterday, Tong, who is also a barrister, said not only those with first point of contact with police could be charged.

He said demonstrators in the second row fitted with gear - like a helmet - could be charged with rioting for having the intention to breach the peace. There were such cases in the 2016 Mong Kok unrest.

Tong made the comments after police commissioner Stephen Lo Wai-chung said police do not see Wednesday's protest as a riot on the whole, but would press on with the case of five people arrested for rioting.

Tong said a riot refers to an illegal gathering made up of at least three people to launch activities that spark public fear and breach the peace.

He, however, urged people not to be overly concerned as most protesters did not clash with police on June 12. "Only the court can convict. The remarks made by the chief executive are not laws. Conviction can only be made by judges," he said.

Tong said he disagreed with suggestions that an independent commission should probe allegations of police brutality.

He said he did not see police firing tear gas randomly and the use of tear gas is a "preventive measure" to stop the protesters from gathering to riot. Such practice is widely adopted in foreign countries, Tong said. He added: "It is their duty to launch tear gas seeing people clashing. I don't see police making severe mistakes."

Asked if Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and members of the Executive Council should apologize for the controversy, Tong said Lam appeared to be emotional and has blamed herself during internal meetings.

"She looks indifferent outside but deep down she is actually emotional," he said.

Tong said he did his best in explaining the bill but he would like to apologize for not being sensitive enough in politics.

Meanwhile, former chief executive Leung Chun-ying wrote on Facebook that the storm stirred up by amending the fugitive laws has severely tarnished Hong Kong's reputation.

He said the city cannot only rely on Chinese embassies, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office and foreign media to explain the amendment bill overseas.

He called on business chambers to organize overseas visits to explain the incident to foreigners.

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