A former Apple Daily photographer was acquitted of assaulting a security guard while working at the government headquarters after a magistrate agreed he might have acted in self-defence.
Gary Sing Kai-chung, 41, had been trying to photograph Michael Suen Ming-yeung, who was then education minister, when the official returned to work in January after being treated in hospital for legionnaires' disease.
A scuffle broke out when security guard Yu Chau-pui - a retired policeman - tried to stop Sing and other reporters from taking photographs. The guard was pushed over and hurt his hand.
Sing pleaded not guilty in Eastern Court yesterday to assaulting the 64-year-old guard.
Based on CCTV footage broadcast in court, magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing said the guard rushed towards Sing - who was walking at a normal pace. He, therefore, could not rule out that Sing acted in self-defence by leaning forward towards the guard.
But Yu gave a different account. He testified: "[Sing] dashed towards me and pushed me with his chest. I lost my balance and fell."
He said Sing did not apologise to him or reply when he asked why he beat him.
To said Yu was exaggerating by describing Sing as "dashing" at him, and said Yu stood right up after falling down.
And the magistrate said it was understandable that the photographer did not respond to Yu when asked why he had attacked him. "Beating goes beyond the [accurate] description of the incident," he said.
But To rejected Sing's suggestions the clash was an accident. The footage showed Sing leaning forwards and the two colliding, causing Yu to fall back.
He also disputed claims by the photographer, someone with ample field experience, that he was unaware Yu was a security guard. Sing worked with the news daily for about 15 years.
Outside court, Sing said: "It is not something to feel happy about. It was originally a simple reporting task, which then turned into a matter that had to be resolved in court."
After learning of the judgment, members of the Journalists Association, the Press Photographers Association and the Next Union that represents Apple Daily staff, blamed the incident on the government's poor press arrangements at the government headquarters in Admiralty.
A spokesman said the government was liaising with the two associations about ensuring the headquarters' operational needs and those of the press were met and that crowd control worked smoothly.