Hong Kong protests: freelance photographer cleared of charges after being accused of enabling assault on mainland Chinese bank worker

Brian Wong
·3-min read

A freelance photographer accused of enabling an assault on a mainland Chinese banking consultant during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong last year has been cleared of the charge, as a magistrate found he might have simply been observing the demonstration.

Swiss-born Marc Gerard Progin left Eastern Court on Friday after being acquitted of aiding and abetting disorder during a lunchtime demonstration in Central on October 4.

The 75-year-old freelance photographer was accused of instigating the attack on JPMorgan Chase employee Lin Nan – who had earlier had a brief altercation with protesters – by closing the door to the latter’s office tower, standing in front of him and preventing him from leaving.

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The prosecution alleged Progin’s move had enabled a radical demonstrator to punch 30-year-old Lin seconds later, before another protester hurled an umbrella at him.

Progin said he had simply wanted to take pictures of the Xi’an-born man from the front.

The two protesters who attacked Lin have not been arrested.

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In Friday’s verdict, Magistrate Stephanie Tsui May-har said that even though Progin’s behaviour appeared “highly suspicious”, she could not rule out the possibility the retiree was there just to film the protest.

She observed Progin had kept a reasonable distance from Lin when he took pictures of the mainlander during the incident, adding the retiree’s experience in landscape and documentary photography was supported by copies of photos his lawyers submitted to the court.

“There is no evidence that [Progin] was in contact with anyone in the crowd, or that he had attacked [Lin],” Tsui said, before awarding Progin costs of the criminal proceedings.

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Progin said outside court he was happy with the outcome of a “fair trial”.

He said he had been photographing major events in Hong Kong for a decade, and that he had never done anything wrong. He also said he was not concerned about a potential appeal by the justice department, which has two weeks to file an application.

“I’ve been everywhere. Police know me. They’ve seen me everywhere,” Progin said. “I’ve never been arrested. I’ve never done anything wrong ... Unfortunately, this time, it became a problem because I was at the wrong place at the wrong moment.”

“Don’t forget the real culprits have not been arrested. It’s not me,” he added.

A Department of Justice spokesman said authorities would study the magistrate’s ruling and the prosecutor’s case report before determining whether any follow-up action was needed.

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