Hong Kong magistrate acquits social worker accused of obstructing police after finding officer’s testimony contradictory

Brian Wong
·3-min read

A social worker accused of obstructing police who were arresting protesters during an anti-government demonstration in Hong Kong last year has been acquitted after a magistrate found the officer’s testimony contradicted video evidence.

West Kowloon Court on Wednesday ordered prosecutors to bear Hui Lai-ming’s legal costs after ruling that she had, in fact, been “very cooperative” as she observed police apprehending more than 100 protesters in Admiralty on September 29, 2019.

The 52-year-old director of the Hong Kong Social Workers’ General Union was accused of pushing Constable Chong Tik-long twice that evening as officers were escorting arrested protesters to police stations for further investigation.

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Hui Lai-ming, director of the Hong Kong Social Workers' General Union, was cleared of one count of obstructing a police officer. Photo: Brian Wong
Hui Lai-ming, director of the Hong Kong Social Workers' General Union, was cleared of one count of obstructing a police officer. Photo: Brian Wong

Protesters had clashed with officers on Hong Kong Island earlier in the day when tens of thousands of people marched from Causeway Bay to Admiralty without seeking prior approval from police.

The confrontations served as a prelude to escalated actions on National Day, when tens of thousands of protesters again took to the streets in at least 11 districts across the city. More than half of the city’s MTR stations were closed at some point during the day.

Of the 146 people arrested during the September 29 protest, 97, including Hui, were taken to court three days later. Ninety-six were charged with rioting, while Hui was accused of assaulting Chong.

Police fire tear gas following scuffles with protesters in Admiralty on September 29, 2019. Photo: Sam Tsang
Police fire tear gas following scuffles with protesters in Admiralty on September 29, 2019. Photo: Sam Tsang

Before Hui’s trial began last Thursday, her counsel, Hectar Pun Hei SC, asked the prosecution to drop the charge, punishable by six months’ imprisonment, citing new video evidence that showed the social worker did not attack the policeman.

Instead, prosecutors stepped up their allegation, accusing Hui of wilfully obstructing the officer, which carries a maximum jail sentence of two years.

But Magistrate May Chung Ming-sun found Chong to be an unreliable witness in Wednesday’s verdict, saying there were “major differences” between his evidence and the defence’s footage of the incident.

Chong, who was tasked with maintaining order during the escort, testified Hui appeared very emotional at the scene and kept pushing a police cordon in an attempt to get closer to the arrested protesters.

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The magistrate found that account unsubstantiated, pointing to the footage that showed a peaceful Hui moving away from the scene as per instructions.

Chung said the footage, instead of proving the prosecution’s case, showed the defendant being pushed to the roadside by a group of officers, including Chong.

She observed Chong fell to the ground later, not because the defendant shoved him, but because he lost his balance during the confusion. He fell down a second time when another policeman grabbed the defendant’s hand and swung it at him accidentally, she added.

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“[Chong] fell on both occasions by accident. The defendant had no intention to assault [him],” Chung said. “The defendant had been very cooperative. She had no intention to resist police.”

Hui said outside the court that her acquittal was hard-earned, as her friends had put great effort into finding the relevant video evidence to prove her innocence.

“It was through everybody’s effort that we obtained the footage so that I could have a fair trial,” Hui said.

“I have to make it clear that I am a social worker. My friends and I are here to safeguard justice.”

This article Hong Kong magistrate acquits social worker accused of obstructing police after finding officer’s testimony contradictory first appeared on South China Morning Post

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