Hong Kong court refuses to call policeman who fired warning shots during Mong Kok riot to testify
Judge finds officer’s evidence irrelevant to trial of nine men accused of rioting
A Hong Kong court on Monday rejected a defence request to summon the officer who fired bullets into the air during clashes in Mong Kok last year, finding his evidence irrelevant to the trial of nine men accused of rioting soon after the warning shots.
Matthew Chong, lawyer for one of the nine, told West Kowloon Court the officer’s testimony would be essential for the defence to prove that the gunfire changed the nature of the protest and prompted participants to defend themselves against what Chong called an unlawful use of power.
But deputy director of public prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin SC said the officer was irrelevant to the trial, which centres on events at the popular shopping district from 3am to 6am on February 9 last year, after a Lunar New Year dispute over government regulation of hawkers.
Leung noted that Chong’s client was not present when the shots were fired at 2.05am, and said there was no evidence to suggest the defendant was acting out of fear for the safety of himself, his family or his friends when he hurled bricks during the riot.
District Court judge Kwok Wai-kin, sitting in West Kowloon Court because it has more modern equipment needed for the case, sided with prosecutors. “You want [the officer] to admit he opened fire unlawfully?” he asked.
Kwok also said the officer’s evidence could put the defence at a disadvantage and so refused to summon him to court.
That ruling concluded the defence case, taking the trial to closing submissions scheduled for three days starting on October 19.
Among the nine, waiter Mo Jia-tao, 18, had earlier admitted assaulting police but pleaded not guilty to three counts of rioting and one of criminal damage relating to a police car.
Cleaner Chung Chi-wah, 30, actor Anthony Ho Kam-sum, 37, waiter Fok Ting-ho, 23, logistics worker Tang King-chung, 27, electrician Lam Wing-wong, 21, renovation worker Yep Chi-fung, 17, and Chan Wo-cheung, 70, and Li Cheuk-hin, 19, who are both unemployed, each pleaded not guilty to one count of rioting.
Chan further denied assaulting police constable Pang Tak-ching.
A tenth defendant, Ng Ting-kai, 25, will be sentenced next January on a rioting charge that he admitted to on the trial’s first day.