A bus driver who swerved his double-decker towards police while raising a middle finger during an anti-government protest last year has been sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
Passing sentence at Kowloon City Court on Tuesday, Principal Magistrate Ada Yim Shun-yee decided against suspending the driving licence of Cheung Ho-yin after learning he had incurred an automatic three-month ban following his conviction.
Yim said she found a community service order appropriate as the 37-year-old New World First Bus driver had expressed remorse for the offence when recounting it during a meeting with his probation officer.
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Cheung was convicted last month on two counts of careless driving in relation to his operation of the route 970 bus on September 6 last year, when protesters took to the streets in Kowloon to denounce the Beijing-imposed national security law and the postponement of Legislative Council elections.
He was detained in Yau Ma Tei that afternoon after sounding his horn for three seconds and raising his middle finger at police officers when he passed through the junction of Nathan Road and Public Square Street.
A subsequent investigation found Cheung had also failed to grip the wheel properly when his bus passed through Pok Fu Lam Road two hours before the incident in Yau Ma Tei.
Police initially arrested Cheung on suspicion of speeding and keeping a spanner as an offensive weapon, but later dropped both allegations and instead charged him with careless driving and dangerous driving for passing too close to the officers.
Cheung was found not guilty of dangerous driving, an offence punishable by three years in prison, but guilty of two counts of the lesser charge of careless driving – which carries a maximum sentence of one year behind bars. The first count was over the incident involving police, while the second pertained to his driving on Pok Fu Lam Road.
During the trial, Cheung said his hand gesture was meant to vent his frustration at police’s decision to close off two of three southbound lanes of Nathan Road. Magistrate Yim, however, said in her verdict Cheung had endangered his passengers with his lack of concentration.
The court heard on Tuesday that Cheung had previously been convicted of the same offence in August 2019, which Yim said was proof of his volatile temper.
“As the driver of a double-decker bus, it is not suitable to impose a fine for such a driving attitude,” Yim said.
But Yim was heartened by Cheung’s probation report – which said he had “reflected” on his behaviour – and agreed to impose a community service order.
Cheung said outside court that he had “learned a lesson” after the month-long criminal proceedings.
“Sometimes I have to keep things under control,” he said. “I hope my case will give my colleagues something to think about, in a good way.”
A New World First Bus spokesman declined to comment on individual cases, but said the company would handle staff disciplinary matters in accordance with established procedures.
But Lam Kam-biu, president of the New World First Bus Company Staff Union, said the conflict could have been avoided altogether had police cordoned off all of Nathan Road to allow room for the demonstration.
“Police allowed vehicles to use the road during the demonstration. Would that not create unnecessary danger?” he said.