Hong Kong lawmaker targets taxi driver who hit anti-government protesters with second private prosecution case
- The October incident saw multiple people injured when the cab, surrounded by protesters, suddenly took off and ploughed into people nearby
- The driver slammed the case as ‘frivolous’, reiterating the vehicle had been out of control when it went into the crowd
Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung filed the dangerous driving case against Henry Cheng Kwok-chuen, 59, for driving his car into a group of protesters during a rally against the government’s mask ban on October 6. The ban has since been held up in court proceedings.
Cheng will face a maximum prison term of 4½ years, a fine of HK$37,500 and the loss of his licence, if the court is satisfied there is sufficient evidence to begin private prosecution proceedings, a rare measure allowed for under Section 14 of the Magistrates Ordinance.
“When police witness a crime so obvious that an ordinary person can tell [but decide not to prosecute], we have to do our job to file our case,” Hui said at a press conference. “We believe we have sufficient evidence to bring Cheng Kwok-chuen to justice.”
The case involving Cheng was one of four being investigated by Hui, who last month launched criminal proceedings against the police officer who shot a protester with a live round in November. The lawmaker said he had received HK$3.4 million from about 8,000 donors through crowdfunding to support the investigations.
The Magistrates Ordinance empowers individuals not acting on behalf of the secretary for justice to initiate their own criminal prosecutions in the capacity of either a complainant or informant.
However, such prosecutions are very rare, and ultimate control rests with the secretary for justice, who can choose to take over the case at any point or stop it entirely by refusing to endorse the indictment.
The court filing said that at about 5.16pm on the day in question, Cheng had driven his vehicle towards a crowd of protesters at the junction of Cheung Sha Wan Road and Yen Chow Street in Sham Shui Po, but stopped before a collision. The vehicle was then surrounded by protesters.
But the car then suddenly took off, ploughing into the pedestrian walkway of Yen Chow Street and ramming into a shop, knocking down some protesters and passers-by, according to the filing. Cheng was then pulled from the car and beaten unconscious by vigilantes.
Cheng was not charged by the Department of Justice, though two others who allegedly took part in the beating were separately charged with rioting, wounding with intent and wearing facial coverings at an unlawful assembly. No pleas have yet been entered in those cases.
Hui said the department’s decision to not prosecute Cheng was itself a form of police brutality and a grave injustice to those injured by the collision, one of whom, according to the lawmaker, suffered fractures in both legs.
Hui plans to call three witnesses, including Senior Inspector Billy Ng Chun-yiu, a police officer who was involved in the investigation of the incident.
In a letter to Eastern Magistracy’s Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai, Hui said the prosecution would very likely rely on Ng’s testimony in relation to his handling of the case. Whether Ng would support their allegations against Cheng, however, was an open question, he admitted.
In response, Cheng on Monday dismissed Hui’s legal bid as “frivolous” and reiterated what he previously told the Post – that he had lost control of his taxi when it rammed into the crowd.
Cheng, who has since resumed work as a taxi driver, said he could offer no compensation to those injured because he had been declared bankrupt by the court. He added that he had never received monetary support from anyone after the incident.
Police declined to comment on the case.
Additional reporting by Cannix Yau