Hong Kong activist Howard Lam’s online search history ‘irrelevant’ and ‘prejudiced evidence’, defence says as prosecutors drop detail
- Two internet links showed accused viewed Wikipedia page on chloroform and news of body-in-cement murder case
- He was earlier said to have made plans and done his research before announcing kidnap-torture saga
Hong Kong prosecutors have withdrawn evidence centred on the online search history of democracy activist Howard Lam Tsz-kin, on trial for faking his kidnap and torture, after the defence raised concerns of potential prejudice.
Prosecutor Ken Ng Kin-man on Tuesday announced that he would not use the information against Lam, following complaints that it was irrelevant.
At issue were two internet links: one to a Wikipedia entry on chloroform, and another on a local Chinese news report on the body-in-cement murder case in Tsuen Wan, discussing the effects of the same compound.
Ng argued last week that the search history suggested Lam, 42, had prior knowledge and planning before he announced he was kidnapped, drugged and tortured with staples punched into his thighs on August 10, 2017.
The accusation prompted an exclamation by Lam, who clapped his hands in a show of sarcasm at the back of the court.
The Democratic Party activist had denied one count of knowingly making to police a false report of commission of an offence.
On August 11, 2017, Lam had gone public with his abduction claim mere hours after the alleged incident, when his party called an urgent press conference.
Former party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan accompanied Lam at the time. “He is telling the truth,” Ho had said. “This incident could not have been made up.”
Lam then arranged a Facebook live event to answer questions and accepted interviews from multiple news outlets.
“I had never misled police,” he said.
On Tuesday, defence counsel Joe Chan argued that his client’s mobile search history was not admissible because police never obtained any warrant to browse his phone’s digital content, and that was an infringement of his constitutional rights.
Chan also pointed out that the alleged time of the searches was inadmissible hearsay evidence, and further argued that prosecutors were asking the court to make “far-fetched and remote” speculations.
“If a person read a piece of news and the contents of Wikipedia, what does that prove?” Chan continued. “The prejudicial effect of this irrelevant piece of evidence is very high.”
The evidence was withdrawn after prosecutors took further instructions.
Also on Tuesday, the court heard Lam’s WhatsApp log showed a missed call and another incoming call on August 8, 2017 from a person named Xu Ke, whom the activist had described as a mainland public security officer.
The West Kowloon Court heard Lam had sent messages to people on the same day, claiming a public security officer had fiercely warned him not to send a signed postcard from Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi to Liu Xia, widow of the late mainland dissident, Liu Xiaobo.
The trial continues before Acting Chief Magistrate So Wai-tak.