District court Judge Clement Lee Hing-nin said while it was shocking how 32-year-old Cheung Tsz-lung and the crowd beat driver Cheng Kwok-chuen for four minutes, he could have been influenced by the mood of the crowd when he committed the offense.
Lee said the attack was not premeditated, but the protesters influenced each other and attacked Cheng mercilessly without understanding the circumstances.
Compared to similar cases, Cheung's offence was of a medium level of violence, he said, but insisted Cheung, who is well educated and a mid-level manager in an accounting firm, should have been able to look at the situation calmly and get the facts straight before acting in a reasonable and lawful fashion.
Yesterday, the prosecution also dropped its charges against the female defendant of the case - 25-year-old teacher Chung Wing-yee - as she has passed away. She is believed to have killed herself.
The court heard that on October 6, 2019, Cheng was driving along Nam Cheong Street in Sham Shui Po, when he found the road to be blocked by a group of black-clad and masked protesters.
As he was said to be trying to drive through roadblocks, the group became agitated and chased the cab from behind, throwing objects at it and causing damage to its windshield and side-view mirror.
Video footage showed screams at the cabdriver and threats to kill Cheng could be heard.
Cheng then passed through Yen Chow Street in Sham Shui Po where some 200 to 300 people had set up more roadblocks.
He later arrived at the junction of Cheung Sha Wan Road and Yen Chow Street and stopped in front of the barricades.
There, about 70 masked people came forward to block the cab. Some of them hit the cab with umbrellas or iron pipes, while others opened the front left door and attacked Cheng with sharpened iron pipes.
The court heard that this caused Cheng to lose control the cab and crash onto the pedestrian road, hitting two women.
After that, some 30 people used umbrellas, iron pipes and hammers to smash the cab, while some people dragged Cheng out of the vehicle then kicked and stomped him in the head.
The attack lasted for about four minutes, during which Cheung, wearing a black mask, stepped on Cheng and hit him twice with a blunt object.
Cheng received a total of seven stitches on his head and lips, seven broken ribs, and numerous bruises on his body. He was discharged from hospital after five days.
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