HONG KONG (AFP) - A Hong Kong teacher-turned-publisher was jailed for nine months after pleading guilty to unlawful assembly on Monday (Aug 15), more than three years after being shot in the eye by police during a protest.
Raymond Yeung Tsz-chun, 32, lost 95 per cent of sight in his right eye after it was hit by a police projectile during one of the first protests in what would become a huge, sometimes violent pro-democracy movement that upended the financial hub for months.
On that day police fired 240 rounds of tear gas and 19 rubber bullets, along with bean bags, pepper balls and so-called react rounds to disperse hundreds of thousands of protesters opposing a Bill to allow the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China.
Yeung was arrested in hospital for "rioting" and released unconditionally after a few months. But nearly three years later, he was rearrested and charged with two counts of "participating in an unlawful assembly".
On Monday, Yeung was sentenced to a total of nine months in jail by principal magistrate Ada Yim.
The prosecution said Yeung was "standing among offensive protesters in stand-off with the police" and "helping to move metal barriers to build roadblocks".
They also cited as proof of his participation Yeung's successful legal challenge in 2020 against police officers' failure to display their identification numbers in operations to disperse protesters.
Magistrate Yim said the wound to Yeung's eye was "a pity" but declined to discount his sentence as police had given repeated warnings.
Yeung gave up his teaching job at an elite secondary school in 2020 due to "his damaged sight and the pressure on the school", according to his lawyers.
He was doxxed and his family was forced to move after being harassed, the court heard.
Yeung said the experience motivated him to become a full-time publisher at Hillway Culture, a publishing house he founded in 2016 featuring books about democracy movements and political issues.
Hillway was barred from joining the official Hong Kong Book Fair last month and its own "Hong Kongers Book Fair" had to cancel a day before its opening after its venue lease was suddenly revoked.
In an interview with AFP two weeks before his court date, Yeung said: "I hope my case could make some people think again why a person like me took part in the protests."
Yeung also said he did not bear ill will towards any individual officer over his injury.
"We should ask whether the system failed to filter out the rotten apples, or if the system itself is a rotten barrel," he said. "If I were an officer in that system... would I be the one who fired that shot?"