A Hong Kong court has said a private prosecution in relation to last year’s anti-government protests can continue, ordering a taxi driver who allegedly rammed his cab into a crowd of protesters to respond to allegations of dangerous driving in the dock.
Cheng Kwok-chuen will be given a summons requiring him to attend Eastern Court to face one count of dangerous driving over the incident in Sham Shui Po on October 6, when protesters rallied against the government’s mask ban.
It is the first private prosecution related to the civil unrest that began almost a year ago.
In February, Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung initiated the proceedings – a rare measure allowed for under Section 14 of the Magistrates Ordinance – against Cheng after the Department of Justice took no legal action against the 59-year-old driver.
On Friday, Eastern Court Magistrate Lam Tsz-kan ruled Hui had sufficient evidence to prosecute Cheng, and allowed him to further his case. A hearing date will be fixed after Cheng receives the summons.
Hui described the ruling as a long-awaited one and said the justice department had done an injustice to Cheng’s victims by deciding not to prosecute.
“I believe the court will serve justice to the victims and society,” Hui said outside court.
Cheng's car was said to have ploughed into the pedestrian walkway of Yen Chow Street and rammed into a shop, after it was stopped and besieged by protesters. The incident left some protesters and passers-by injured, including a woman who suffered fractures in both legs.
He was beaten by protesters after the crash. Two people who allegedly took part were separately charged by the justice department with rioting, wounding with intent, and wearing facial coverings at an unlawful assembly. No pleas have yet been entered in those cases.
Cheng’s case was one of four being investigated by Hui, who also launched criminal proceedings against the police officer who shot a protester with a live round in November.
Hui’s lawyer Joe Chan Wai-yin also applied on Friday for a summons to be served to the officer, who was granted anonymity by West Kowloon Court in another case involving 21-year-old student Chow Pak-kwan, the protester being shot.
But magistrate Lam said he needed time to consider the application, including whether the charges – attempted murder and shooting with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to a person – could be suitably laid in the form of a summons, and whether the evidence submitted by Hui warranted the court’s approval. The court will hand down a written ruling in due course.
The Magistrates Ordinance allows residents not acting on behalf of the secretary for justice to lodge criminal complaints, though the justice minister can intervene to take over or abort the case.
The complainant must prove to the court there is sufficient evidence to begin proceedings, before the magistrate issues a summons to the proposed defendant to appear in court.
Only a few cases are privately prosecuted every year, as opposed to the tens of thousands the secretary for justice brings.
In May, a businessman filed an application to privately prosecute opposition lawmaker Dennis Kwok for misconduct in public office, an offence the cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office has accused pro-democracy legislators of committing by filibustering.
Also in the same month, opposition lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen filed a criminal case against pro-establishment legislator Kwok Wai-keung for assaulting him in the legislative chamber during a House Committee meeting, as the two camps fought over the chairmanship.
A justice department representative told the court on Friday that prosecutors had yet to decide whether to intervene in the latest proceedings.
Additional reporting by Chris Lau
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