A Hong Kong protest organiser has appeared in court charged with inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly, after an approved rally he organised was halted by police on Sunday.
Ventus Lau Wing-hon, 26, was taken to Eastern Court on Tuesday, two days after the protest in Chater Garden, Central, was cut short.
He was charged with one count of inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly, and one of refusing or wilfully neglecting to obey police officers' orders. The offences are punishable by a maximum term of five years and one year respectively in prison.
Prosecutors alleged that when a community relations officer from the police force, who was identified only as senior inspector 34135, asked Lau to call off the rally, the organiser deliberately asked him to show his warrant card and provoked others to attack him during a subsequent illegal meeting.
Protesters punched, spat and threw hard objects at the inspector and injured three other officers after they were incited by the defendant, assistant director of public prosecutions Jonathan Man Tak-ho said.
Lau, who called himself a self-employed columnist, was not required to enter a plea as police needed extra time to examine security footage and open source videos, locate witnesses, and take statements from two of the injured officers who were still in hospital.
Despite prosecutors' objection, Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai granted Lau bail at HK$10,000 cash plus HK$10,000 surety until his next hearing on April 14, on condition he remain in Hong Kong, avoids Chater Garden, and reports to police twice a week.
Lau was among 10 defendants to appear in court after their arrests on Sunday, when protests broke out across the city.
The remaining nine, aged 16 to 60, faced charges related to possession of weapons and assaulting police officers in Eastern Court, Kowloon City Court and Fanling Court. Five of them were students.
Lawyers for 16-year-old Lincoln Chan, who allegedly attacked an unnamed officer in Mong Kok, complained to Kowloon City Court that he was beaten by officers after his arrest.
Family driver Si Chun-ying, 60, also complained to Eastern Court via his lawyers that he had been made subject to excessive violence by officers after his arrest near Chater Garden.
Eight of the nine defendants were granted bail at HK1,000 to HK$10,000. Chan will remain in custody until he is discharged from hospital.
Separately at Eastern Court, an engineer charged over a protest two months ago went free after prosecutors dropped the case against him because of insufficient evidence.
The defendant, 24-year-old Leung Chung-yin, was originally charged with possessing three masks, an eye mask, a glove, a roll of adhesive tape and a telescope in Wan Chai on November 11, the day when protesters responded to online calls for a citywide strike and clashed with police in different parts of the city.
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