‘Threatened’ Hong Kong judge says angry man brandishing cleaver in his courtroom led him to flee in fear
Decoration worker on trial for criminal intimidation and other charges years after his civil claim against police officers was rejected
A Hong Kong judge on Friday testified he fled from his courtroom during a hearing last October after a deeply angry man shouted his way to his bench and drove his clerk away.
“I had never heard anyone speak to a judge so loudly in court,” Mr Justice Wilson Chan Ka-shun testified. “I felt threatened, startled, and I didn’t know why [my clerk] ran away from the court. I realised there must be some danger. I was a bit frightened, so I ran.”
Chan was testifying against decoration worker Yu Zulin, 53, who has denied three counts of criminal intimidation, criminal damage and possession of an offensive weapon.
District Court heard the two men first crossed paths in 2013, when Chan rejected Yu’s civil claim against four police officers for HK$660,000 (US$84,000) over injuries he purportedly suffered after an arrest operation in 2008.
Yu appealed against Chan’s judgment and successfully reopened his case in a retrial, but again failed in his claim.
The alleged offences in the present case took place at courtroom No 13 in the High Court on October 17 last year, after another High Court judge turned down Yu’s appeal.
A sound recording seized from Chan’s courtroom revealed that his slow and calm delivery of a judgment in English was suddenly interrupted by a cacophony of noise and overlapping voices.
A male voice interjected in Cantonese: “Wait.”
Another male voice responded with foul language in Mandarin: “Chan Ka-shun, do you think I can’t find you? I’m going to chop you to death.”
Chan said there were only four people in his courtroom – himself, his clerk Danny Kwan Man-yu and two lawyers – when he began delivering judgment for a case of civil contempt of court.
He later noticed a dark-skinned man entering and settling into the empty public gallery.
But Chan did not pay attention to what the man was doing, the judge said, until he heard his clerk shout and saw the man walk towards his bench with a very angry face while shouting what he believed to be Mandarin with a strong accent.
“I saw my clerk run towards the staff passageway to leave,” Chan continued. “My first reaction was to leave the court and return to my chamber.”
Senior assistant director of public prosecutions Jonathan Man Tak-ho disclosed before opening his case against Yu that the decoration worker was seen brandishing a cleaver at another floor of the court building in what appeared to be a rehearsal, before he located Chan’s court and raised the blade above his head while standing just two to three metres away the judge.
The cleaver – measuring 12 inches long with a 7-inch blade – landed twice on Chan’s bench and left a 5cm cut, Man said.
Chan testified he did not see if Yu was holding anything at the time.
But Yu admitted he might have caused the damage, except that he was unsure about the extent, saying he had only “gently tapped” the table once or twice.
The defendant also confessed to scolding the judge for leaving the courtroom.
“With him gone, I can’t commit suicide,” he said while cross-examining Chan without a lawyer.
The court heard Yu then left the building a minute after the alleged incident, while the judge’s court resumed its hearing 15 minutes after.
On the same day, Yu turned himself in at Wan Chai police station, accompanied by Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting.
Yu admitted under caution that he had felt aggrieved and angry with Chan’s “unjust” ruling after reading the latest judgment on his case. For this reason, he added, he brought the cleaver with a plan to commit suicide before the judge. But Yu admitted he had also threatened to kill Chan to “restore justice” after the judge left the courtroom with his clerk.
The six-day trial continues before deputy district judge Don So Man-lung.