Anti-government protesters have taken their fight to Hong Kong’s courts, filing multiple legal challenges and damages claims, and asking the city’s judges to strike down the classification of one major protest as a riot.
On Thursday, Jimmy Sham Tsz-kit, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, launched a judicial review alongside protester Yeung Kwok-ming, and asked the High Court to declare the use of tear gas by police at a protest on June 12 unconstitutional.
That day, what started as a peaceful, police-approved sit-in outside the Legislative Council descended into a violent confrontation between officers and protesters, who had flocked to Admiralty to oppose the second reading of the government’s extradition bill, which had already triggered what would grow into three months of chaos and civil unrest.
Police fired tear gas after some protesters started charging, and issued a prohibition on the grounds that it had turned into a riot.
According to their court filing, Sham and Yeung want the court to void the prohibition, in effect overturning the police’s decision to call it a riot – one of the five demands protesters have.
In a separate judicial challenge, teacher Yeung Tsz-chun, who was hit by projectiles fired by police during the clash, complained that officers from the Special Tactical Squad had failed to wear identifications numbers.
The lack of identification made it impossible for protesters to lodge complaints if they believed police had abused their power, she said.
He asked the court to declare the practice “unlawful and unconstitutional” and require all officers from the elite squad, also known as Raptors, to wear the numbers in future.
The third legal action was filed on Wednesday by Keith Fong Chung-yin, president of Baptist University’s student union, who is best known for being arrested after buying laser pointers last month. He launched his personal injuries claim at the District Court.
The court filing, made available to the public on Thursday, accused police of assault, unlawful arrest and false imprisonment after he was twice taken into custody in the past month.
Since the anti-government protests began in June, numerous legal actions have been launched to challenge decisions made by the authorities.
But the three seen in the past two days have been the most comprehensive.
Protesters initially took to the streets to rally against the government’s proposed extradition bill, which would have allowed fugitives to be sent to jurisdictions with which Hong Kong lacks an extradition agreement, including mainland China.
Although the government withdrew the unpopular bill on September 4, nearly two months after suspending it, protesters have continued to march for their four remaining demands, including the dropping of the term “riots” to describe the protest on June 12 and thereafter.
According to Sham and Yeung Kwok-ming, the dispersal on Lung Wui Road on June 12 was triggered by protesters who assembled on nearby roads and clashed with police.
But the scuffles were unconnected to the front’s gathering, as Sham had told participants to remain calm and stay on the pavement peacefully, they said.
The decision to fire tear gas into a group of peaceful protesters, who had no escape route after both sides of Lung Wui Road were cordoned off, constituted torture or inhumane treatment and violated the Bill of Rights, they argued.
In the case filed by Yeung Tsz-chun, he said he noticed that special tactical officers were not wearing their identification numbers shortly before he was hit on the same day.
Without the identification, “it is extremely difficulty for potential victims and eye witnesses to identify the police officer responsible … and would thus prevent the existing police complaint system … from being triggered”.
He said the move violated his rights to freedom from torture under the Bill of Rights.
Meanwhile, Fong has demanded an unspecified sum of damages for the injuries he allegedly sustained during his first arrest in Sham Shui Po last month.
He was arrested by detective constables Angus Wong Hon-fung and Wong Kai-pui, Detective Sergeant Ha Wai-kei and Station Sergeant Lam Fat-kin for carrying 10 laser pointers.
Fong was detained for 46 hours before he was unconditionally released, and the first hearing in his civil case is scheduled for March 4.