The lawyer for an Indonesian journalist who was shot in the eye while covering an anti-government protest two weeks ago on Saturday vowed to take legal action against the force, saying little had been done to bring the guilty to book.
Veby Mega Indah, a 39-year-old associate editor with Suara Hong Kong News, was hit by what her lawyer believes to be a rubber bullet when she was covering the city’s ongoing unrest on September 29 clothed in full press gear.
In a statement on Saturday, her lawyer Michael Vidler said it had almost been a fortnight since a criminal complaint was filed on behalf of Veby, who has permanently lost the sight in her right eye following the injury.
“Regrettably, police have not confirmed the arrest of the perpetrator, though we have provided them with ample evidence of how and in what circumstances Veby received the injury, and what the perpetrator, an officer, looked like,” he said.
Vidler added that the police commissioner had also failed to confirm whether the officer involved had been suspended.
“In the face of these failures by police, I shall file applications in the High Court to force the police commissioner to reveal the identity of the perpetrator so that a private prosecution can be laid,” Vidler said.
He also said he would press the court to declare that the police commissioner’s failure to investigate the case and suspend the officer had been unlawful.
A spokesman for police said the Complaints Against Police Office had "launched a comprehensive investigation". Veby was not fit to provide assistance at the moment, he added.
The force refused to comment on whether they would reveal the identity of the officer in question in light of the imminent legal challenge, saying the case was still under investigation.
Vidler said he planned to file the application next week. He also published a statement written by Veby.
“I am very grateful for the continued care I receive from the medical team at the hospital and have been very touched by the prayers and expressions of support from the people of Hong Kong and Indonesia,” Veby said in the statement.
She will have to undergo surgery to get rid of pain in her injured eye.
For more than four months the city has been gripped by anti-government protests sparked by a now-abandoned extradition bill.
Journalists have been caught up in the front line, where radical protesters throw petrol bombs in clashes with police who fire tear gas, projectiles and live ammunition in return. Complaints were also lodged against police that some journalists had been assaulted by frontline officers.
It prompted the Hong Kong Journalists Association to issue statements to condemn police, with frontline journalists attending the force’s press conferences in press gear as a gesture of protest.
Earlier, Veby gave a teary account of the incident to the Post when she was being treated at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan.
“I was wearing a helmet and a pair of goggles. I was standing with other journalists. I heard a journalist shouting, ‘Don’t shoot, we are journalists’. But the police shot,” she said.
“The next thing I knew was that I saw a bag coming towards me, and then I was down.”
Lawyer Daniel Wong Kwok-tung said if Veby could ascertain the identity of the officer who fired the shot, she could press the police to conduct an investigation and the prosecutors to lay charges.
Another option for her would be to carry out a private prosecution, Wong said.
“The question will be centred on whether the officer has resorted to excessive power or unnecessary force.”
He said given the nature of Veby’s injury, at least a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm would be appropriate. The charge carries a maximum jail sentence of three years.
If a malicious intent is established, the charge of shooting with intent to cause grievous bodily harm could be invoked. Anyone guilty of the offence faces a maximum term of life imprisonment.