A retired police sergeant has been cleared of charges accusing him of attacking a protester and a photojournalist during rival rallies sparked by a teacher who swore at police officers.
Principal Magistrate Ernest Lin Kam-hung yesterday handed down the verdict immediately after presiding at Yeung Chi-wai's common assault trial at Kwun Tong Court. The 58-year-old denied the three charges.
The alleged offences took place on August 4 last year, the day supporters and opponents of primary school teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze staged rallies in Mong Kok, after an online video of Lam verbally attacking police officers over their handling of a Falun Gong protest went viral.
The court heard that Yeung grabbed protester Wan Ka-sing, an accountant, from behind after Wan made thumbs-down gestures at the crowd.
Video footage showed Yeung pushing Next Magazine photographer Lo Kwok-fai's video camera during the commotion. The prosecution said Yeung later hit Lo's chest as Lo fell to the ground.
Taking the stand yesterday, Yeung said he went to the protest to meet his old friend, a retired police inspector who was addressing the protesters that day.
Handing down the verdict, Lin said: "It is undisputable that there was bodily contact between the defendant and the two witnesses. But the prosecution needs to prove that the defendant acted with an intention to impose violence."
He said he could not rule out the possibility that Yeung was trying to separate Wan from the angry crowd, or was trying to prevent Lo from falling - as Yeung had claimed in the witness stand.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association, Hong Kong Press Photographers Association and Next Media Trade Union have expressed regret over the court ruling and urged the Department of Justice to consider an appeal.