Fiery ex-Hong Kong lawmaker claims his assault trial involving CY Leung was unfair
Wong Yuk-man argues on appeal that nobody would represent ‘hot potato’ of a case involving city’s top official, leaving him ill-suited to represent himself
A former Hong Kong lawmaker jailed for hurling a glass at the city’s top official in 2014 argued in his appeal on Monday that he had been deprived of a fair trial.
Wong Yuk-man complained that the trial magistrate had erred in allowing prosecutors to give closing submissions, despite a century-old principle barring such practice when a defendant did not hire a lawyer or summon witnesses other than himself, as in the present case.
The complaint – the first of Wong’s seven grounds of appeal – hinges on an interpretation of the Magistrates Ordinance, whose relevant clauses have already been tabled for the Court of Final Appeal’s determination in a separate case to be heard in June.
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The veteran politician, 66, was jailed for two weeks for common assault in 2016 after magistrate Chu Chung-keung concluded he did not have the “slightest hesitation” in finding Wong guilty of “uncivilised behaviour” that had put former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying in potential danger.
The high-profile case broke ground in the city as it was the first time for a sitting chief executive to testify in a court case. Leung claimed that he froze during a question-and-answer session on July 3, 2014, explaining he was shocked by the noise of the glass Wong threw shattering behind him.
The outspoken former lawmaker known to many by his nickname “Mad Dog” served in the Legislative Council from 2008 to 2016.
But Wong told the High Court on Monday that his conviction ought to be quashed because he had been deprived of a fair trial.
Chief among his complaints was that he could not find a lawyer to represent him. Wong claimed none was willing to handle his “hot potato” of a case involving a chief executive as an alleged victim.
“I had to handle the case by myself,” he said. “It wasn’t a fair trial.”
Being neither legally trained nor represented, Wong said he lacked full awareness of the legal consequences when the magistrate and prosecutors debated the handling of closing submissions.
He quoted himself in stating during the trial: “I’m not going to comment because I don’t understand.”
Wong asserted that the magistrate did not explain the underlying legal principles or consequences of the arrangement that eventually led prosecutors to analyse applicable laws, comment on evidence and list 30 points attacking his testimony in closing their case.
“It was in every bit a closing speech,” he told Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling.
Quoting from past cases, Wong said the appeals courts had long established that prosecutors do not have the right to conclude and comment on evidence when a defendant is not legally represented before the trial judge.
Some appeal court judges have observed that professionally trained lawyers enjoy an unfair advantage over unrepresented defendants in their ability to convince judges.
But it remained unclear whether the century-old principle would apply to trials before magistrates.
For this reason Judge Barnes adjourned the case to August, pending the top court’s determination.