Mong Kok riot

‘Misidentified’ man acquitted of assaulting Hong Kong police with bamboo stick in Mong Kok riot

But Churk Ling-hon, 32, lost an application to cover his legal costs because he brought suspicion upon himself in court, says magistrate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 2:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 8:30pm

An unemployed man accused of jabbing a police officer’s shield with a 2.8-metre bamboo stick during the Mong Kok riot in February walked free on Tuesday after a court found that it might have been a case of mistaken identity.

Churk Ling-hon, 32, had argued in Kowloon City Court that he was only filming in the area on the early morning of February 9 when he was arrested on Shantung Street following a stand-off between police and protesters.

He is the first person to be acquitted after a trial involving the violent clashes that saw more than 80 people arrested.

But he lost an application to cover his legal costs as magistrate Amy Chan Wai-mun concluded that he had brought suspicion upon himself.

“If the defence thinks the defendant did not commit any crimes or breach of trust, why agree to be bound over?” she asked, referring to a proposed agreement for Churk to be bound over on good behaviour for a stipulated period in exchange for the charges being dropped.

Churk had pleaded not guilty to one count of assaulting a police officer in the due execution of his duty.

An honest witness may still make a mistaken identification
Magistrate Amy Chan Wai-mun

He accepted that he was at the scene – with a face mask, goggles and work gloves – but denied that he picked up a bamboo stick or that he attacked an officer.

The case rested on the credibility of police constable Siu Chi-nang, who testified that Churk had twice jabbed a bamboo stick in his direction despite repeated warnings to back off.

The officer was characterised as an honest witness as the magistrate found that his evidence did not waver even under cross-examination.

But the defence argued that Churk was seen in police footage holding a mobile phone in one hand and a monopod with a video light and camcorder in the other.

As the video equipment was also seen on the ground with the screen glowing while Churk was being subdued, the magistrate said she could not rule out the possibility that he was holding it before he fell to the ground and got arrested.

Chan further pointed out that a person would need both hands to lift the bamboo stick, given its weight.

Hence, it would be “literally impossible” for Churk to hold it in one hand while filming.

“Among the 10 protesters holding long bamboo sticks, the clothing of some of them was similar to that of the defendant,” she continued.

“Even if I am satisfied that [Siu] is an honest witness, an honest witness may still make a mistaken identification.”