Mass arrest of protesters on Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, November 18, 2019

Arrests and trials of Hong Kong protesters

As of January 18, 2022, at least 10,496 protesters have been arrested and 2,909 prosecuted.

This page stopped updating as of late January 2022. A continuation of the page, regularly updated on a monthly basis, can be found here.

On June 9, 2019, over one million Hong Kong people marched to protest against a government plan to legalize extradition to China. This was the beginning of many months of protests, in which at least two million of Hong Kong’s 7.3 million people participated.

The protests have been met by a wide-ranging, intense and on-going crackdown, an important part of which is the arrests and prosecutions of protesters and freedom struggle leaders. The Chinese Communist Party is essentially dismantling a formerly liberal society, and its use of the judicial system to persecute citizens exercising their basic human rights in order to demand other basic human rights is a key element in its overall strategy.

This is a follow-up to an article that tracked protests and protest-related arrests in the Hong Kong freedom struggle up through November 2, 2019. That article has been split in two, with this one following arrests and trials and another following protests. The information here is updated regularly.

612 Humanitarian Relief Fund was set up expressly to assist protesters by providing legal defense aid and is the largest of its kind in Hong Kong. As of the end of May 2021, it had spent HK$236,383,746 in donations to aid 22,938 protesters. Please consider making a donation, one of the best ways to support Hong Kong protesters on trial. (UPDATE: As of September 6, 2021, the fund has stopped accepting donations. It has itself become a victim of the crackdown and has announced plans to cease operations by the end of October. It issued a formal cessation notice on November 18, and will always be remembered as an astounding collective civic effort.)

CitizenNews (眾新聞) has an excellent database in Chinese on arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned protesters. It has data on acquittals missing from here and tracks cases in an interactive timeline. (UPDATE: Citizen News closed in early January 2022, only days after Stand News was forced to close when its assets were frozen and six of its leaders were arrested. With their closures, it has become significantly more difficult to monitor arrests and prosecutions of Hong Kong protesters and political leaders.)

The number of arrests is based on Hong Kong police figures, though it has been a long time since the police released any overall figures. Thus, the number is now their last figure released plus additional arrests recorded by this site. The number of prosecutions is based on regularly updated figures from Arrested Persons Concern Group (被捕人士關注組; Telegram: @youarenotalonehk).

Below are six tables: 1) an overview of arrests and prosecutions; 2) a list of protesters convicted and sentenced; 3) a list of political and protest leaders arrested and charged; 4) a list of those arrested and prosecuted under the so-called ‘national security law’; 5) a ranking of crimes of which protesters have been most frequently convicted; and 6) a ranking of types of crimes of which protesters have been most frequently convicted (ie, nonviolent assembly offenses, violent offenses, etc).

· In all, at least 10,496 people have been arrested for protest-related offenses and under the so-called “national security law”.

· In all, at least 2,909 people have been prosecuted.

1,181 are currently on trial; 632 for ‘riot’, 87 for possession of offensive weapons, 27 for assaulting police, 32 for arson, 31 for explosives-related offenses, and 13 for firearms-related offenses. In addition, 87 are on trial under the so-called ‘national security law’ (4 for ‘secession’, 59 for ‘subversion’, 12 for ‘collusion’, 8 for ‘terrorism’, 5 for ‘failure to comply with orders issued under the national security law’) and 24 on ‘sedition’ charges presided over by a designated ‘national security law’ judge. (‘Sedition’ is not an NSL crime. It dates back to the UK colonial era and had never been used since the 1997 handover until 2019. While technically not an NSL crime, it is treated by the authorities almost as if it were: investigated and arrested by the National Security Department [the agency of the Hong Kong Police Force charged with investigating ‘national security’ crimes] and heard by judges designated by the Chief Executive to preside over ‘national security’ trials.)

The number of those currently on trial, 1,181, is down from a peak of 1,703 as of 31 October 2020. The general trajectory since that peak has been steadily downward, both overall and in all categories of crimes including ‘riot’, which peaked at 721 on 15 March 2021 and since has declined less rapidly than the others to the current 632. In fact, the number of ‘riot’ defendants now makes up 53 percent of the overall number of protesters and NSL defendants on trial. The only three categories in which the number of protesters on trial has increased are explosives-related charges, firearms-related charges, and ‘nation security law’ charges.

As of November 18, 2021, the ten offenses of which HK protesters have been most frequently convicted are unlawful assembly (178 protesters convicted), possession of offensive weapon/s (111), riot (77), assaulting police (67), possession of item/s with intent to damage or destroy property (64), criminal damage (51), wearing a facial covering at an unlawful assembly (31), possession of item/s fit for unlawful purpose (31), obstructing a public place (28), and possession of radiocommunications equipment (a walkie-talkie) without a license (28). Of the 111 convicted of “possession of offensive weapons”, the “weapon” in question in 58 cases was a laser pointer. In all, HK protesters have been convicted of 69 different criminal offenses.

As of November 18, 2021, 280 protesters have been convicted of nonviolent assembly offenses (such as “unlawful assembly”), 243 of possession offenses (such as “offensive weapons”), 189 of violent offenses (such as “riot” and “assaulting police”), 78 of property damage offenses (such as “criminal damage” and “arson”), 77 of obstruction offenses (such as “obstructing police” and “obstructing a public place”), and 5 of “national security law” offenses.

· 178 defendants are currently remanded in custody pending the outcome of their trial. This is the highest number of protest and political defendants on remand at any one time since the beginning of the protests in June 2019. For the period from June 2019 to July 2020, the number hovered between 60 and 100. The increase in the past year is mainly due to the inception of the ‘national security law’, which, in contrast to common law principles, puts the onus on the defendant to prove s/he will not commit the offense with which he is charged if released on bail. Currently, 81 of the 111 people charged under the ‘national security law’ or with ‘sedition’ are remanded. Remand is increasingly used by the authorities as a mechanism for keeping political enemies who have not been convicted of a crime behind bars.

· 1,728 legal proceedings have concluded, bringing the total number of protesters who have so far been prosecuted to 2,909. In addition, Arrested Persons Concern Group (被捕人士關注組) has lost track of the status of 45 protesters on trial.

· The numbers of those prosecuted, 2,909, and those released unconditionally, 1,620, amount to 4,529 of the at least 10,495 arrested. The cases of the remaining 5,966 arrestees are technically still ‘under investigation’. In all cases, police reserve the right to re-arrest and the Department of Justice to prosecute at a later date.

· 827 have been convicted; 411 on guilty pleas. 768 have been sentenced.

· Of the 768 who have been sentenced, 603 have received custodial sentences: 475 have been sentenced to prison, 125 to juvenile detention facilities, and 3 to drug rehabilitation centre. The longest prison sentence so far is 12 years. 182 have been sentenced to at least 1 year in prison. The 475 who have been sentenced to prison have received a total of 656 years, 10 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days, making for an average prison sentence of about 1.35 years. (Juvenile detention sentences have no fixed time, only providing for a maximum amount of time, to be reviewed periodically.)

Full lists of 1) arrests, prosecutions and sentences and 2) those convicted and sentenced can be found at the bottom of page.

Note: The numbers of those convicted and sentenced above are based on media reports and may not be complete. Typically, the increasingly infrequently released government figures on those ‘held legally responsible’ in regard to the protests are higher. But those figures are not itemized or disaggregated. For example, convictions and bindings-over are grouped together under the category ‘held legally responsible’ though bindings-over entail no admission of guilt or conviction. It may also be that the police figures include not only protesters but also counter-protesters. Several dozen counter-protesters have been prosecuted for attacking protesters and random citizens, and at least 18 have been convicted.

Data from media and police

On July 27, 2020, Initium reported that as of June 30, 141 had been convicted, 3 sentenced to care or protection orders, 108 bound over, 12 acquitted, and charges dropped against 40.

On May 14, 2020, Hong Kong Police announced that 1,617 protesters have been prosecuted since June 9, 2019, a much higher figure than the, at the time, 1,401 documented cases. According to police, 595 have been put on trial for ‘riot’, 252 for possession of offensive weapons and 236 for unlawful assembly. On June 11, South China Morning Post reported, based on police information, that 1,749 have been prosecuted, again much higher than the, at the time, 1,644 documented cases. SCMP also reported 100 convictions, far higher than the 42 documented. Police do not publish itemized lists of those arrested and prosecuted, so it is impossible to check media and Arrested Person Concern Group reports against that list. SCMP also gave updated counts of arrestees by age: 1,707 are under 18, including 1,602 secondary students and eight primary students. 5,640 are between 18 and 30. In all, people 30 and under make up 80% of all arrestees as of June 11. On August 26, Hong Kong Police updated its figures: 9,672 protesters arrested through August 15; 2,093 prosecuted, of whom 471 have completed the judicial process, 396 of whom have had to “bear legal consequences” (including conviction, binding over and protective care orders). The most frequently prosecuted crimes were ‘riot’ (663), unlawful assembly (332) and possession of offensive weapons (322). On September 9, police again published an update: 10,016 arrested; 2,210 prosecuted, of whom 550 have completed the judicial process, 462 of whom have had to “bear legal consequences”. The most frequently prosecuted crimes were ‘riot’ (687), illegal assembly (383) and possession of offensive weapons (327). On October 28, Hong Kong Police updated its figures: 10,144 protesters arrested through October 15; 2,285 prosecuted, of whom 664 had completed the judicial process, 557 of whom had to “bear legal consequences” (including conviction, binding over and protective care orders).The most frequently prosecuted crimes were ‘riot’ (691), unlawful assembly (403) and possession of offensive weapons (329).

According to CitizenNews’ regularly updated database, as of 30 April 2021, 10,260 people have been arrested and 2,608 prosecuted. Of those prosecuted, 38.1% have been ‘held legally responsible’, 8.5% have been acquitted, 1% were granted care or protection orders, and 1.9% have had charges dropped, while in 50.5% of cases, judicial proceedings are still in progress.

From CitizenNews’ protest database

Apple Daily reports, “As of the end of April [2021], 715 people have been convicted, 277 were bound over and four were granted care or protection orders. Charges have been dropped for 51 people, and 224 were released after being cleared of their charges in court, according to the figures.”

Stand News has a full list (in Chinese) of people arrested under the “national security law” as of May 2020.

As of early June, different outlets were reporting slightly different figures on the overall number of people charged with ‘riot’. Stand News said 757; CitizenNews 760; and Apple Daily 750. Of those, Arrested Persons Concern Group reports 709 were still on trial as of 15 May 2021.

ChinaFile has an in-depth report on ‘national security law’ arrests, documenting 118 arrests under the ‘national security law’ or by the ‘national security department’ as of May 21, 2021. (download)

Arrests and trials of political and protest leaders

A particular aspect of the on-going government crackdown on the Hong Kong freedom struggle is its targeting of protest and opposition political leaders for arrest and prosecution. In all, as of January 18, 2022, it has arrested 174 freedom struggle leaders 297 times.

These leaders include 33 political party leaders, 19 former Legco members (there are no pro-democracy members remaining in Legco), 19 protest organizers, 3 student leaders, 95 District Councillors, 53 Legco candidates, 4 District Council candidates, 6 primary organizers, 7 union leaders, 7 leaders of civil society groups, and 1 media owner.

106 have been charged in court, of whom 60 have been convicted 90 times. 10 have been acquitted. 29 of the 60 convicted have been sentenced to prison on 50 sentences.

Tickets and fines for violating bans on ‘public gatherings’ in the name of fighting the pandemic

On April 21, 2020 police started issuing suspected protesters with tickets for violating coronavirus social distancing rules implemented on March 28 that year. Since that latter date, all protests (or what the police refer to as ‘public gatherings’) have been officially and completely banned without exception. The right to freedom of assembly has been indefinitely suspended.

As of October 7, 2021, at least 615 people suspected of being protesters have been issued with such tickets.

Not a single case of coronavirus has been traced to people protesting while over the same period, protests have occurred in many other countries around the world, again with no evidence of coronavirus transmission. The scientific evidence of low risk of coronavirus infection from outdoor gatherings where social distancing measures are taken coupled with the wearing of face masks has also become more conclusive. Even while the Hong Kong government has more recently lifted or lessened restrictions on other forms of gathering, including those indoors where risks are higher, it has not lifted the prohibition on ‘public gatherings’ of more than four people outdoors.

On June 17, 2020 it was reported that police had issued 705 tickets of a fixed fine of HK$2,200 for breaching restrictions. Police do not keep records on how many of those fined were suspected protesters. On November 30, several were given ‘littering’ fines for placing flowers at Prince Edward MTR station, and on December 7, one was given a littering fine for placing a white origami crane at a memorial for Chow Tsz-lok in Tseung Kwan O.

National security law arrests and trials

On July 1, 2020 a new category was added to the list of arrests and trials of Hong Kong protesters: Those arrested and charged under the new so-called “national security law”, which came into effect on June 30, 2020 at 11 pm.

Arrests and trials in China

On August 23, 2020, the Guangdong Coast Guard apprehended twelve HK activists on a boat reportedly on its way to Taiwan and has been holding them incommunicado ever since, without contact with their families or family-appointed lawyers. These are the first HK protesters to be detained in China. On December 28, 10 of them were put on trial. Two were sentenced to prison terms of two and three years for organizing illegal border crossing; the other eight to prison terms of seven months each for illegal border crossing. Two of the 12 detained were minors and were returned to Hong Kong on December 30. 8 of the detainees completed their sentences in China and were returned to Hong Kong on March 22, 2021. All 10 have been remanded in custody pending trial for alleged crimes committed in Hong Kong

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