OFW arrested in HK protest charged with unlawful assembly

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Pioquinto (wearing the yellow-brown shirt) is whisked out of the court building in Kowloon City by supporters.

A 36-year-old overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who was arrested during anti-government protests on Saturday in Mong Kok was charged yesterday afternoon with being part of an unlawful assembly.

Jethro Pioquinto, a Hong Kong Disneyland dancer, appeared before Kowloon City Magistrate Raymond Kwok and was allowed to post bail for $2,000 (P13,000) as his lawyer insisted that he was innocent.

“He is just a passerby. He was on his way home on that day,” Pioquinto’s lawyer told Judge Kwong, adding that the suspect lives in Mong Kok.

Pioquinto appeared in the dock wearing a striped brown shirt while his right arm had a gauze for an “abrasion” he got when he was tackled by an anti-riot policeman.

Consul Paul Saret, head of the Assistance to Nationals Section of the Philippine Consulate General, said Pioquinto had been brought to the Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital for a medical check-up but doctors found no other serious injury.

Pioquinto, who came to HK in 2008 to work in Disneyland, was arrested at around 11:15 pm on Saturday as police dispersed protesters in Mong Kok at the junction of Fife Street at Nathan Road.  As the police charged, Pioquinto ran away together and was tackled down by an anti-riot policeman.

His lawyer asked the court if he could proceed with his vacation in the Philippines this month. He said Pioquinto had bought a plane ticket on July 24 for a visit to his family back home from August 15 to 23.

Pioquinto promised to return to HK but Judge Kwong turned down the request, which was also strongly opposed by the prosecution.

“Given the seriousness of the allegations, we strongly oppose the lifting of the condition of not leaving Hong Kong,” the prosecutor said.

He said Pioquinto was allegedly one of the protesters “who refused to leave despite repeated warnings from the police.”

But his lawyer noted that the defendant does not know how to speak Cantonese and could not have undertsood police orders. He also said that there were no protest paraphernalia found in Pioquinto’s possession when he was arrested.

Besides the bail condition of not leaving Hong Kong, Pioquinto was also ordered to report regularly to the Mong Kok police station and observe a curfew from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.

The OFW will again appear in court on September 30 to find out if the police would pursue the charge of unlawful assembly against him. This offense carries a penalty of up to five years imprisonment under Hong Kong’s Public Order Ordinance.

Protesters who were arrested previously in Sheung Wan were charged with rioting, which has a penalty of up 10 years in jail.