A Hong Kong protester who allegedly pushed a police officer during an anti-government demonstration last year has been acquitted of assault after the magistrate found the officer’s testimony contradictory and unreliable.
Eastern Court cleared Ngai Ka-wai of one count of assaulting an officer on Wednesday despite ruling that he appeared “very suspicious” on the evening of October 1, when he was found lingering in the middle of Hennessy Road in Wan Chai before being subdued during a police operation.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets and set up roadblocks across the city that day after police banned the National Day rally, citing public safety concerns. Some protesters set fire to barricades and hurled petrol bombs towards officers.
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Ngai, a 29-year-old clerk, was accused of attacking Inspector Lam Tai-kam from behind at around 6pm that day, when the officer was chasing a rod-wielding protester down Hennessy Road.
But Lam admitted in the trial that he did not see how the alleged attack took place, nor could he tell whether any weapon was used in the incident. The only evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt, he said, was that Ngai appeared next to him after he felt a push on the left side of his back and turned around to face the person involved.
The defendant’s act was very suspicious, but the prosecution had failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt
Magistrate Stephanie Tsui
Magistrate Stephanie Tsui May-har rejected that account in her verdict, saying it contradicted the evidence of another police witness, who said Lam was hit on the right side of his body.
Tsui said she could only rely on low quality video footage of the incident in her judgment because no prosecution witnesses were able to describe the circumstances of the alleged attack. However, the clip was so blurry that even police confessed they could only “imply” or “guess” how the attack occurred, the magistrate continued.
“The defendant’s act was very suspicious, but the prosecution had failed to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt,” Tsui said.
Meanwhile, two other protesters have either been jailed or given probation in separate cases for targeting police during last year’s unrest.
In one case, sports coach Hon Cheuk-hang, 26, was jailed for three weeks at Kowloon City Court for pushing a station sergeant to the ground during a protest outside Sham Shui Po Police Station on the night of August 6. He has been granted temporary release at HK$20,000 (US$2,580) pending an appeal.
At Eastern Court, 17-year-old student Mok Ching-wang was spared jail and given 12 months’ probation for throwing a water bottle at a sergeant during a protest at the airport on August 13.
Magistrate Cheang Kei-hong said the offence was so serious that it would have warranted a jail term of three months, but decided to give the student one more chance in light of his young age and genuine remorse.
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