Justice puts a cork in the case against champagne activist

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 November, 2010, 12:00am

The government will not prosecute an activist who was accused of spraying champagne at a security guard during a protest last month outside the central government's liaison office.

Before the decision by the Department of Justice not to prosecute, critics of the police had said that members of the force had become more willing to abuse their power for political reasons.

Ip Ho-yee was arrested during a gathering outside the liaison office on October 10 to celebrate the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to mainland dissident Liu Xiaobo .

It was reported at the time that activists opened three bottles of champagne and some of the spray from Ip's bottle accidentally hit a security guard behind the liaison office's main gate.

Ip was arrested after the guard complained to police. She was released on bail until yesterday, when she reported back to police.

A police spokeswoman said all charges against Ip were dropped after the Department of Justice decided against prosecution.

When asked whether the decision meant police would review their policies regarding arrests when officers dealt with similar situations during protests, the spokeswoman said each case would be handled according to the circumstances.

Speaking after she reported back to police, Ip said she still felt helpless after her ordeal.

'Arresting me was absurd,' she said.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said the arrest 'made Hong Kong a laughing stock among the international community' and that the action by police fuelled people's suspicion that the force was engaging in harassment on political grounds.

'The police are only putting their own integrity in doubt,' he said.

Law Yuk-kai, director of Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said the government's decision to drop the prosecution proved that officers initially over-reacted.