Hong Kong courts

Judge refuses to allow Hong Kong Occupy activist Joshua Wong to file appeal over financial damages defeat against police in handcuffs case

Former student leader had taken police to Small Claims Tribunal over alleged assault and unlawful detention at protest but was ordered to pay justice chief’s legal fees instead

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 7:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 10:45pm

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung failed in his appeal bid on Tuesday for damages from police for alleged assault and unlawful detention at a chaotic protest last year.

The former student leader took police to the Small Claims Tribunal earlier this year, seeking HK$45,000 (US$5,769) in compensation, after he said officers handcuffed and took him away in a police car during an incident ahead of the city’s annual July 1 protest march.

Wong, poster boy of the city’s 2014 pro-democracy Occupy movement, took issue with the police having done so without arresting him. The police said they had to take action to protect Wong from counter-protesters during what turned out to be a highly charged ruckus that morning.

Wong lodged an appeal with the High Court after the tribunal ruled against him in July and instead slapped him with an HK$8,000 bill for the secretary for justice’s legal fees.

But on Tuesday, deputy High Court judge Simon Leung refused to let Wong’s lodge his appeal, saying his case was not arguable.

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In particular, the judge said the use of handcuffs had nothing to do with whether an arrest had been declared, as Wong asserted.

“All the law says is that handcuffs should not be used unless this is necessary and appropriate in a given situation, depending on the circumstances, whether or not an arrest is made,” the judge wrote in his judgment, handed down on Tuesday.

Wong, holding up the written judgment outside the court, later said: “In respect of the High Court ruling, I express my regret.”

He said he would continue to speak out against police overstepping their powers by teaming up with pro-democracy lawmakers on the security panel in the Legislative Council.

The incident on July 1 occurred when Wong and a group of 30 pro-democracy activists were on their way to a flag-raising ceremony in Wan Chai, near where President Xi Jinping would deliver a speech.

As his group was met by a larger gang of 100 pro-Beijing counter-protesters, clashes ensued despite police warnings and attempts to separate the crowds. Officers then removed some of the pro-democracy protesters, including Wong, as they were outnumbered.

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Officers involved in the operation testified at the tribunal that they decided to use handcuffs on Wong because they were worried there could be a breach of the peace.

They also feared Wong could hurt himself and others while struggling, although the activist contended he was calm.

Apart from ruling an arrest was not a precondition for police to use handcuffs, Leung also found that the tribunal adjudicator, Simon Ho, had put himself properly in the officers’ shoes, before concluding they had valid worries over a possible unpeaceful situation.

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Wong and his barrister, Jeffrey Tam Chun-kit, argued that officers should have removed the handcuffs at a later stage when Wong was in the police car – something Ho had no issue with.

Leung said the adjudicator was entitled to make his own decision because he had carried out his assessment of the evidence objectively.