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A anti-government protester shot by Hong Kong police at an unauthorised demonstration on October 1 will have to pursue a personal injury claim against the force without free legal aid from the city. Photo: Sam Tsang

Hong Kong protests: teen seeking to pursue injury claim over October shooting by police slams rejection of legal aid application

  • Tsang Chi-kin, 18, shot in an incident seen widely on social media, is hoping to pursue a personal injury claim
  • But city’s Legal Aid Department rules he failed to show reasonable grounds for the proceedings and that the use of force ‘was reasonable’
The first anti-government protester shot with live ammunition during last year’s months of social unrest has expressed outrage after his application for legal aid in pursuit of a personal injury claim against Hong Kong police was rejected by authorities.

Tsang Chi-kin, 18, who was shot in the chest during an unauthorised protest in Tsuen Wan on October 1, on Friday said he had been told the use of force against him was “reasonable”.

Charged with one count of rioting and two counts of assaulting police, he is currently out on bail awaiting trial.

The Legal Aid Department wrote to Tsang on July 16 to reject his application for legal aid.

Tsang Chi-kin, 18, who was shot at an October 1 protest was seeking free legal aid to help him bring a personal injury claim against Hong Kong police. Photo: Handout

“You have failed to show that you have reasonable grounds for taking the proceedings to which your application relates or would relate if proceedings were to be issued,” the letter stated.

“Having considered all the evidence, we opine that the use of force by the police at the material time was reasonable.”

Tsang said in a statement that he suspected “political factors” were at play given the short amount of time between the application’s filing and the decision to reject it.

What made me furious is that the court trial has not started, but the department has concluded that the use of force was reasonable
Tsang Chi-kin, on the rejection of his legal aid application

“I am dissatisfied with the grounds the department used. What made me furious is that the court trial has not started, but the department has concluded that the use of force was reasonable. I will never forget the wound brought by this incident,” he wrote.

The Post understands he has filed an appeal of the decision.

Lawyer and pan-democratic lawmaker James To Kun-sun said the department was duty bound to consider the evidence submitted by applicants as well as the evidence available to the public. Tsang’s shooting was recorded on video and circulated widely on social media in the immediate aftermath.

“The department must release a letter detailing the grounds of refusal if the applicant appeals. Then members of the public can judge if the grounds are reasonable,” he said.

Barrister and pro-Beijing lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun said it was “not uncommon” for the Legal Aid Department to reject applications for legal services, as the fund was subject to public supervision, and the authority clarifies its reasons for rejections.

“The legal aid counsel in the department would consider in each case whether it holds good legal grounds and if it has a good chance to win. If not, it would be a waste of public money,” Leung said.

“People should not take legal aid for granted. The department does reject applications, as there was a time when the aid system was accused of being abused.”

In a written reply to Legco in February 2014, then Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing said to ensure the rational use of public funds, legal aid would only be granted to applicants who passed both the merit test and the means test in accordance with the Legal Aid Ordinance.

“In assessing the merits of an application, the Legal Aid Department will consider the facts of the case, evidence available and the legal principles applicable to the case to determine whether there are reasonable grounds for legal aid to be granted,” he wrote.

Two other protesters were wounded with live ammunition during months of social unrest sparked by a since-withdrawn extradition bill that soon morphed into a broader anti-government movement.

Four days after Tsang’s shooting, on October 5, a 14-year-old boy suffered a gunshot wound in the leg in Tuen Mun by what was said to be a stray bullet that had been initially fired skyward.

Another teen was shot once after an officer fired multiple rounds on November 11 during a protest in Sai Wan Ho.