Mainland Chinese man who barged into Hong Kong courtroom with cleaver jailed for criminal damage
Yu Zulin found not guilty of possessing offensive weapon and intimidating Mr Justice Wilson Chan, against whom he had a grudge
A mainland Chinese-born renovation worker was on Monday jailed for 16 months for damaging a Hong Kong judge’s bench with a cleaver in an unprecedented courtroom safety scare that prompted enhanced High Court security.
Deputy district judge Don So Man-lung criticised Yu Zulin, 54, saying he caused chaos that disrupted court proceedings and damaged public property without any regard for law and order.
“Similar incidents had never happened before in Hong Kong’s judicial history,” the judge said after convicting Yu of one count of criminal damage.
But So accepted Yu’s claim of wanting to fulfil a promise to commit suicide before Mr Justice Wilson Chan Ka-shun, and therefore found him not guilty of possessing an offensive weapon and intimidating the judge at the High Court on October 17 last year.
Yu began to rise upon hearing the acquittals, with his hands clasped in a praying position as though he wanted to thank the judge. But he was immediately pulled back by a correctional services officer, and learned later that he would be convicted and jailed for 16 months for the criminal damage charge.
The court previously heard that Yu took a 12-inch cleaver to Chan’s courtroom while it was in session, after receiving an unfavourable judgment based on a civil case Chan presided over in 2013. The commotion prompted Chan and his clerk to flee the courtroom.
Yu said he had made a promise to Chan to prove his innocence through death, after the judge rejected his civil claim against four police officers for HK$660,000 (US$84,000) over injuries he claimed he suffered during an arrest in 2008.
A sound recording played in court revealed that Chan was suddenly interrupted during a session, by banging noises and a loud male voice in Mandarin. “Chan Ka-shun,” the man said, “do you think I can’t find you? I’m going to chop you to death.”
His cleaver left a two-inch scratch on Chan’s bench.
The incident renewed debates over courtroom safety and sparked new security measures that came into effect at the High Court on January 31, which required all users to go through metal detectors and bag inspections before gaining access to the courtrooms.
Judge So concluded that Chan was an honest witness, but pointed out that his evidence was neither helpful to prosecutors nor harmful to the defendant since he never mentioned any knives or sharp objects in his testimony.
So also observed there was no evidence to show that Yu successfully approached Chan or brandished the cleaver in his direction.
So explained that Yu’s claim of chopping Chan to death did not amount to criminal intimidation because it was said while the judge had already retreated to his chambers and there was no evidence of another person recounting the threat to him.
On the other hand, So observed that prosecutors had failed to raise key questions that could have undermined what he called Yu’s “foolish” suicide plan – like why he needed to do it in front of Chan, or his logic behind thinking that a suicide would help reopen his civil case.
Yu was further acquitted of possession of an offensive weapon after So concluded that his intention was to harm himself but not others, contrary to the definition of the offence.
The Department of Justice said it would study So’s judgment and the prosecutors’ report to decide if further action is needed.