Dozens charged with rioting appear in Hong Kong court

Most of the 44 defendants, including a teacher and a pilot, were released on bail with sentencing set in September.

    Supporters of arrested protesters chanted 'Reclaim Hong Kong', as they gathered under heavy rain on Wednesday [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]
    Supporters of arrested protesters chanted 'Reclaim Hong Kong', as they gathered under heavy rain on Wednesday [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

    Charges were read on Wednesday against the Hong Kong protesters, who have been accused of rioting — the most serious charge brought since mass demonstrations began in the city last month.

    Except for one protester, who did not appear in court and now faces an arrest warrant, the rest were released on bail, according to the South China Morning Post news website.

    A student, a teacher, a nurse, an airline pilot, a barber, a chef, an electrician, a construction worker and an unemployed person were among those who were charged in court, according to their charge sheets.

    The 44 protesters were charged for their alleged role in running battles between police and protesters in a well-heeled residential neighbourhood on the main island on Sunday.

    Their sentencing is scheduled for September 25.

    They were detained after clashes with police at an unauthorised protest in the western part of Hong Kong island on Sunday, when police repeatedly fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets to drive back protesters blocking the streets with road signs and umbrellas. Police issued warnings prior to using the tear gas, but protesters stood their ground and threw eggs at the officers.

    The large demonstrations started last month as a movement against now-suspended extradition legislation, and have since grown to encompass broader demands around greater democracy and government accountability.

    Earlier on Wednesday, demonstrators gathered outside a court in Hong Kong to show their support for those who were charged.

    The supporters chanted "Reclaim Hong Kong" as they gathered under heavy rain. They are protesting China's influence in the city's affairs.

    Police announced the charges late on Tuesday, immediately sparking new protests that went on until the early morning hours of Wednesday.

    Hong Kong police said it "will not rule out the possibility of further arrest" as it investigates the four others released temporarily or out on bail.

    One of the accused is a 33-year-old man who was also charged with assaulting a police officer, police said. Another 24-year-old man was charged with weapons possession. 

    Video livestreamed by Hong Kong media on Tuesday night showed protesters chanting slogans and throwing eggs at the Kwai Chung police station. Police used pepper spray to try to disperse them.

    Hong Kong
    A police officer points a gun towards anti-extradition bill protesters on Tuesday night [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

     In a statement on Tuesday, Hong Kong police accused the protesters of setting up roadblocks, breaking fences, damaging street signs and attacking police officers with bricks and iron rods.

    Fireworks injuries

    As the demonstrations went on Tuesday night, fireworks were set off by unknown people, injuring six protesters. 

    Five people were taken to a nearby hospital for their injuries and the sixth man declined medical treatment at the scene, police said.

    Video footage on social media appears to show a car driving by the Tin Shui Wai police station as fireworks flare by where protesters were gathered.

    Police said it was not an action taken by officials and that officers are investigating the incident.

    Activists began protesting in early June for the government to withdraw an extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their legal rights would be threatened.

    The government suspended the bill, but the protests have expanded to calls for democracy and government accountability.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies