Retired Hong Kong policeman pleads not guilty over assault on bystander during Occupy protests
Frankly Chu’s lawyer accuses local newspaper of ridiculing former superintendent
A retired Hong Kong senior police officer accused of striking a bystander with a baton during the 2014 Occupy protests has pleaded not guilty in court, while his lawyer said a local newspaper had committed contempt of court by ridiculing the former superintendent.
On Friday, Frankly Chu denied one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in West Kowloon Court.
The charge, which carries a maximum jail sentence of three years, came after prosecutors alleged that he hit passer-by Osman Cheng Chung-hang with his baton in Mong Kok on November 26, 2014 during the 79-day pro-democracy sit-in.
After prosecutors asked him to make a plea on Friday, Chu, appearing before Acting Principal Magistrate So Wai-tak, replied: “Not guilty.”
His counsel, Peter Pannu, who called the case against his client “mind-boggling”, complained of the delay in bringing the case to court, adding that it was hanging over Chu’s head for the past two years and four months.
He also questioned whether the trial could be conducted without prejudice, citing a report published by local daily Ming Pao in 2015 which included a statement made by Chu.
The statement was taken by Chu’s superiors, he said, so Chu must answer their questions, unlike normal defendants who have the right to remain silent.
Although the prosecutors had not included the statement as part of their case, he was concerned that they could still use it to cross-examine his client at the magistrate’s discretion, if Chu wished to take to the witness stand during the defence case.
“That statement was flying around [in the public space],” he said, accusing Ming Pao and lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching of using it to ridicule Chu.
“My hands are tied,” he added.
He also accused Ming Pao’s article of being “likely to be in contempt of court and perverting the course of justice”. At the time the report was published, Chu had not been charged.
The counsel added that he would reserve his position to raise all his complaints after the magistrate said discretion over the statement in question would be dealt with at a later stage.
The prosecutors revealed that the case would involve 13 witnesses, a statement given under police caution and four video clips.
So adjourned the case to June 9 for Chinese documents to be translated, as the trial would be conducted in English.
Outside court, Pannu said he and his client did not rule out applying for the case to be dropped, or applying for a judicial review on the decision to prosecute Chu.
Chu’s court appearance drew a crowd of supporters, who waved banners and chanted slogans outside the building.
The retired policeman, who was granted bail, left in a dark sedan as crowds from the Alliance in Support of Our Police Force cheered.