Two Hongkongers accused of assaulting police during last year’s social unrest have been acquitted after a magistrate found the officers had used “unnecessary” force against the pair.
Clerks Lo Kam-ling, 42, and Lee Sheung-chun, 32, were each cleared of one count of assaulting police in Sha Tin Court on Wednesday over the confrontation outside Tai Wai MTR station on the night of September 1, 2019.
Police were patrolling across the city that evening after anti-government protesters blocked roads and disrupted traffic to the airport throughout the day.
The prosecution accused Lo of hitting a superintendent in the arm using a folded umbrella, while alleging Lee pushed another constable during the subsequent altercation. Both officers have been granted anonymity in the proceedings.
However, video footage of the alleged offences showed the superintendent bumped into Lo while chasing another man, causing her to hit the officer by accident.
The superintendent then pushed Lo against a wall, a reaction challenged by Lee, who was walking past the scene with his fiancée. The constable intervened and shoved Lee away, while pushing his fiancée in the chest.
Lee testified that it was against this backdrop that he pushed the constable in self-defence in a bid to protect his partner.
In Wednesday’s ruling, acting principal magistrate Jason Wan Siu-ming sided with the defendants, and ruled the confrontation was caused by officers’ misunderstanding of the situation.
He slammed the superintendent and the constable for using unnecessary force against the two, while finding the latter had overreacted to Lee’s verbal confrontation. He added the conflict could have been avoided had police handled the matter in a composed manner.
“The court understands that police are constantly working under immense pressure and threats to their personal safety, but the present case did not take place at a protest. The defendants were merely passers-by,” Wan said. “Had police calmly handled the situation, they could have avoided the subsequent conflict.”
The magistrate also ordered the justice department to bear the legal costs the defendants incurred in the proceedings after accepting that they were not at fault in the incident.
Lee said his prosecution was unfair, adding he would consult his lawyers and consider taking further legal action, including potentially launching a private prosecution against the constable.
His fiancée, who broke into tears outside court, said the couple had worried about their own safety after Lee received threats via anonymous phone calls following the incident.
“This past year, my fiancé has been subject to the restrictions of the court order, and had to return home before 11pm and report to police once a week. Even if he is now found not guilty, he has been deprived of his freedom over the past year,” said the woman, who did not provide her name.
The proceedings had also disrupted the couple’s wedding plans, Lee added.