Radicals plead not guilty to police assault

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 October, 2008, 12:00am

Two League of Social Democrats members, including lawmaker 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, pleaded not guilty in Eastern Court yesterday to charges of assaulting police officers during a scuffle outside Government House during the visit of a top Beijing official.

When asked to enter his plea, Leung said it was 'not a crime to strive for universal suffrage'.

National People's Congress Standing Committee deputy secretary general, Qiao Xiaoyang, visited Hong Kong in December to explain Beijing's decision to rule out universal suffrage in 2012.

On December 29 about 700 protesters marched to Government House, where Mr Qiao was to brief lawmakers, district councillors and others on the decision.

Video footage showed protesters burning newspapers in a tyre - said to represent the poisonous air in Hong Kong society. When a police officer put out the fire, Leung and fellow league member Andrew To Kwan-hang restarted it. When the officer returned, scuffles ensued.

Leung faces one charge of assaulting a police officer in due execution of his duty, while To faces two counts.

Police officer Lee Kung-tai told the court the crowd was warned, but when he tried to extinguish the fire a second time he felt a 'forceful' shove from To. Leung then pushed him, causing him to fall and knock his head.

Defence counsel Erik Shum Sze-man said there was no mention of a warning in his first statement, nor could one be heard on the video.

The trial, before Magistrate Rickie Chan Kam-cheong, continues today.