Doubt cast on PLA soldier's credibility as barracks trespass case witness
Military witness in barracks case admits he could not read statement he signed
A People's Liberation Army soldier had doubt cast on his credibility as he gave evidence in the case of an activist accused of trespassing in the PLA barracks.
In what is thought to be the first case of a serving PLA soldier giving evidence in a Hong Kong court, Song Heng was asked by the defence why he signed a copy of his statement, transcribed by police, when it contained a factual error.
Song was appearing at Eastern Court for the prosecution in the case of Billy Chiu Hin-chung, 29, who denies a charge of entering a closed area - the barracks in Central - without a permit. Three other defendants pleaded guilty to the same charge and will be sentenced at the end of Chiu's trial over the Boxing Day protest.
Clad in a business suit, Song faced questions about why he signed a statement which contained an inaccuracy; he told police taking the statement a vehicle had been leaving the barracks when the gates opened, allowing the activists in. Police wrote that the vehicle was entering.
"As a soldier, don't you think it is important to make sure everything written is correct before adding your signature?" asked Jasper Kwan Hang-fan, for Chiu.
Replying in Putonghua, Song agreed that it was "very important", but said he had been unable to read the statement because it was written in traditional Chinese characters, which he was unfamiliar with, rather than the simplified Chinese used on the mainland.
Kwan questioned why Song had expressed certainty in his evidence yesterday that the incursion involved four people, rather than "three or four", as his statement to police said.
Song also told the court a man seen in an Apple Daily video of the incident was the same person - Chiu - he picked out in an identity parade in January.
Recounting the incursion, which lasted 25 seconds according to CCTV from the base, Song said he warned the trespassers in Putonghua that they were entering a closed military zone and gestured for them to stop. He said the man he identified as Chiu entered the barracks waving a blue flag and shouting slogans Song did not understand.
The trial continues today before Magistrate So Wai-tak. Three more PLA soldiers are expected to give evidence.