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

Arrests and trials of Hong Kong protesters and opposition leaders

As of February 15, 2022, at least 10,499 protesters have been arrested and 2,944 prosecuted.

Kong Tsung-gan / 江松澗
18 min readFeb 16, 2022

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This article is a continuation of a previous article tracking arrests and prosecutions that was regularly updated from November 3, 2019 to January 18, 2022. This article has been streamlined for easier reading and consultation. For background on some of the matters mentioned, it is recommended that the previous article be consulted.

The purpose of this article is to track arrests, prosecutions, convictions and imprisonments of Hong Kong protesters and opposition leaders from June 9, 2019 — widely considered the beginning of the Hong Kong protests — to the present.

The protests were met by a wide-ranging, intense and on-going crackdown, a key component 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 using the judicial system to persecute citizens exercising their basic human rights in order to demand other basic human rights to accomplish that aim.

In the past year, several organizations that provided information and support essential in the documentation you find on this page have been forced to close due to the crackdown. These include Stand News (立場新聞), Citizen News (眾新聞), and 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund (612人道支援基金). In their absence, it has become more difficult to document arrests and prosecutions of protesters and opposition leaders in Hong Kong. Indeed, the whole information environment in Hong Kong has substantially deteriorated. Those in Hong Kong who have dedicated themselves to recording the on-going persecution have practically had to go underground in order to protect themselves and others. Beyond previous sources that no longer exist, the sources of the information below are the remaining media in Hong Kong as well as others which cannot be named.

Some of the information below — such as arrests, prosecutions, convictions and sentences as well as those arrested and prosecuted under the so-called “national security law” — is updated on a monthly basis. Other information — such as convictions categorized by crime and by type of crime (ie, nonviolent assembly offenses, violent offenses, etc) — is updated on a half-yearly basis. The dates of the most recent updates are listed next to the information.

In all, at least 10,499 people have been arrested for protest-related offenses and under the so-called “national security law”.

In all, at least 2,944 people have been prosecuted.

1,171 are currently on trial: 635 for ‘riot’, 84 for possession of offensive weapons, 28 for assaulting police, 33 for arson, 33 for explosives-related offenses, and 12 for firearms-related offenses. In addition, 94 are on trial under the so-called ‘national security law’ (4 for ‘secession’, 59 for ‘subversion’, 12 for ‘collusion’, 14 for ‘terrorism’, 5 for ‘failure to comply with orders issued under the national security law’) and 28 for ‘sedition’ . (‘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, 1,171, is down from a peak of 1,703 reached on 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 635. In fact, the number of ‘riot’ defendants now makes up 54 percent of the overall number of protesters and NSL defendants currently on trial. The only four categories in which the number of protesters on trial has increased are explosives-related charges, firearms-related charges, ‘nation security law’ charges and sedition.

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.

179 defendants are currently remanded in custody. 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. During the period from June 2019 to July 2020, the number hovered between 60 and 100. The increase in the past year and a half is mainly due to the inception of the ‘national security law’, which, in contrast to the common law principles otherwise applicable in Hong Kong, 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 120 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.

1,773 legal proceedings have concluded, bringing the total number of protesters who have so far been prosecuted to 2,944.

870 have been convicted, 419 of whom on guilty pleas. 788 have been sentenced.

Of the 788 who have been sentenced, 620 have received custodial sentences, of whom 490 have been sentenced to prison, 127 to juvenile detention facilities, and 3 to drug rehabilitation centre. The longest prison sentence so far is 12 years. 187 have been sentenced to at least 1 year in prison. The 490 who have been sentenced to prison have received a total of 665 years, 3 months, and 2 days, making for an average prison sentence of about 1.38 years. (Juvenile detention sentences have no fixed time, only providing for a maximum amount of time ranging from six months to three years depending on the type of detention.)

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

Note: The numbers of those convicted and sentenced above are based on available information and are in all likelihood incomplete. While the numbers of arrests and prosecutions presented here are most likely accurate, as a point of comparison, the Hong Kong government’s Security Bureau announced on September 29, 2021 that as of July 31, 2021, 905 had been convicted, at which point this list had recorded 442 convicted and sentenced. Other sources in Hong Kong suggest that as of January 15, 2022, 973 political prisoners had been imprisoned or detained since June 9, 2019, at which point this page had documented 602. That number and all numbers on this page are based on the itemized list of each individual protester convicted and sentenced to be found below. The most pressing work of documentation at the moment is to complete a full list of those convicted and sentenced so as to fully substantiate the most accurate number.

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 February 15, 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.

108 have been charged in court, of whom 64 have been convicted 96 times. 10 have been acquitted. 32 of the 64 convicted have been sentenced to prison on 54 sentences.

A full list of arrested, prosecuted and convicted political and protest leaders can be found at the bottom of this page.

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 and political leaders: Those arrested and charged under the new so-called “national security law”, which came into effect at 11 pm on June 30, 2020.

While called a “law”, many believe the NSL is actually contributing to the unraveling of rule of law in Hong Kong. For starters, it wasn’t promulgated in Hong Kong through a legislative process but was entirely imposed by the Chinese Communist Party through its rubber-stamp National People’s Congress without any participation by anyone in Hong Kong. In this respect, with the NSL, Hong Kong has become akin to an occupied territory ruled by an occupying power which imposes its will by external force. Secondly, the NSL departs in form and content significantly from long-standing practices associated with the rule of law. Namely, crimes stipulated in it are vaguely worded. The Chief Executive, herself appointed by the CCP, appoints designated judges to preside over NSL trials — a clear and direct compromising of the independence of the judiciary. The NSL provides for the establishment of a bureau of Chinese national security police in Hong Kong that is secret, unaccountable to any authority in Hong Kong, exempt from Hong Kong jurisdiction, and authorized to prosecute NSL defendants (though it has yet to do so). It is unclear what exactly this bureau is tasked with doing and the extent of its functions. In bail proceedings, the onus is on the defendant to sufficiently prove he will not re-offend if released on bail whereas under common law, the onus is on the prosecution to show the defendant poses a high risk of re-offending if granted bail. In terms of purpose, judging by the records of the first one and a half years the ‘law’ has been in effect, it seems clear that it is intended to detain and imprison for as long as possible anyone whom the regime regards as hostile. With few exceptions, the charges against those arrested and prosecuted under the NSL so far have to do with political expressions and actions that would be entirely legal in a free, open and rights-respecting society. Unfortunately, the designated NSL judges appear more than ready to do the regime’s bidding.

As of February 15, 2022, 193 people have been arrested under the NSL. Of these, 131 were arrested on suspicion of having committed NSL crimes and 68 were arrested either directly by or under the direction of the National Security Department police on suspicion of having committed non-NSL crimes in relation to NSL crimes. (Some were arrested both for NSL and non-NSL crimes.) 94 people have been prosecuted for NSL crimes, while 34 have been prosecuted for non-NSL crimes by a designated NSL judge (the majority of those — 28 — for ‘sedition’). There are currently 81 defendants charged with NSL offenses who are remanded in custody. Nine defendants have been convicted on 12 counts. Six have been sentenced to between 13.5 months and 9 years in prison. None have been acquitted or received non-custodial sentences.

A full list of those arrested and prosecuted under the ‘national security law’ can be found at the bottom of this page.

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.

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. None have so far told the outside world about the experience of his detention in China.

Below, please find: 1) a timeline of arrests and trials of Hong Kong protesters, political leaders and those arrested under the ‘national security law’; 2) a list of Hong Kong protesters, political leaders and those prosecuted under the ‘national security law’ who have been convicted and sentenced; 3) a list of Hong Kong political leaders who have been arrested and prosecuted; and 4) a list of those arrested and prosecuted under the ‘national security law’.

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Kong Tsung-gan / 江松澗

Author of three books on the Hong Kong freedom struggle