A Hong Kong court has dismissed a private prosecution brought by a former opposition lawmaker over his alleged assault by a pro-Beijing rival at a chaotic Legislative Council meeting, after the justice department took over the case, then dropped it, saying the bid had been made out of context.
Senior assistant director of public prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang on Monday said the attempted prosecution by ex-legislator Raymond Chan Chi-chuen, who faces three charges over the May 8 incident, did not “even disclose a prima facie case”, and therefore had “no reasonable prospect of conviction”.
Chau was applying to West Kowloon Court to take over Chan’s prosecution of lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung, who had denied one count of common assault before the Department of Justice stepped in.
Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.
He said the public prosecutor would offer no evidence against Kwok – effectively ending the case – after reviewing an investigation report compiled by an independent team of police officers as well as all relevant evidence.
Chan, 48, accused Kwok, 42, of pulling his collar from behind and dragging him along an aisle during the Legco meeting, in which opposition lawmakers were ejected following a protest. Video of the incident was shared widely online.
Under Hong Kong’s Magistrates Ordinance, a resident can initiate criminal proceedings against another, although ultimate authority rests with the secretary for justice, who can step in and quash the case.
The May 8 session in the House Committee, which scrutinises bills and decides when they are put to a final vote, descended into chaos after the pro-establishment camp seized control of the meeting to begin clearing a backlog of bills for review, a surprise move the opposition called an abuse of power.
Last Friday, the justice department laid 15 charges, including contempt of Legco and obstructing its officers, against Chan and seven opposition figures. Kwok was not among those charged.
Chau on Monday said the department had concluded Kwok’s use of force was lawful and reasonable “under the circumstances”.
“Mr Chan’s allegations have to be considered in context and the circumstances as a whole,” Chau said.
“Having considered all the evidence available and the elements of the offence, including but not limited to the lawfulness and reasonableness of the force used in the circumstances, this department considers that the available evidence is insufficient to support the elements of the offence.”
He declined to explain further, citing ongoing criminal proceedings against Chan and his political allies.
Principal Magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen granted the justice department’s application and ordered the charge against Kwok be struck out.
Outside court, Kwok maintained that he had not targeted Chan during the meeting, saying: “I have to emphasise that, from the beginning to the end, I had no intention to hurt anybody.”
Kwok did not offer a direct answer as to whether he was sorry for Chan’s injuries, saying people who “corrupted the next generation” should apologise.
Monday marked the third time the Department of Justice terminated a private prosecution brought by an opposition figure this year. The remaining two bids stemmed from last year’s anti-government protests.
Opposition lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, who was responsible for both of those actions, aimed his prosecution bids at a taxi driver accused of ramming his vehicle into a group of protesters and a police officer who fired a shot at a demonstrator.
Both attempts had been approved by a magistrate before the justice department stepped in to shelve them.