A man has been jailed for six months for obstructing police by exposing a reconnaissance operation for flushing out protesters from Polytechnic University at the height of Hong Kong’s social unrest in 2019. Kowloon City Court heard police were scouting for vantage points from the Hong Kong Museum of History, situated next to the besieged campus, in Tsim Sha Tsui on November 17 when a chief inspector found pictures of his officers on Telegram – a messaging app used by many protesters – and realised the operation had been exposed. At the time, police had surrounded the university and were trying to remove protesters, who had been occupying the campus for almost a week. To secure a better vantage point, a small team of officers sought help from museum staff, including contractor Chan Chi-wah, 44, and asked them to lead the way to suitable locations. The two photos widely circulated online captured a uniformed officer by a window, and were attached with an audio recording, in which a male voice identified himself as working in a museum in Tsim Sha Tsui. “Comrades, beware,” the voice said. “Three ‘Flying Tigers’ [Special Duty Unit members] have entered the museum and are preparing to shoot archers. Prepare, prepare.” The inspector, named only as B in court, subsequently terminated the operation, recalled the officers, and decided to return the next morning, which they did. Another museum employee later recognised Chan’s voice in the recording, and he was also identified by the photographed officer in a line-up. 32 months’ jail for first protesters to admit rioting during PolyU clashes On Friday, Magistrate Andy Cheng Lim-chi said he was certain that Chan had helped the officer, took pictures of him and disseminated them with the audio recording he made, knowing they would be widely circulated. The magistrate also said police operations required confidentiality and Chan clearly knew that officers had wanted to keep this mission under wraps when he tipped off protesters. Cheng agreed there was a need for the inspector to recall his men out of safety concerns, given the officer had recognised his colleague and knew only a small team was deployed to the museum. Even if there had been earlier reports of officers’ presence in the museum on the news or social media, as shown in clippings provided by the defence, Cheng concluded that it was Chan’s conduct which directly postponed police operations by more than 10 hours, and that amounted to a serious offence of wilful obstruction. In mitigation, Chan said he regretted his conduct for the inconvenience it had caused to police and the legal consequences he was facing, adding he had lost his job of six years because of this incident. Chan is currently bankrupt and unemployed, his counsel said. Upon being sentenced, Chan immediately applied for bail pending appeal but that was rejected by the magistrate. Wilful obstruction of a police officer in the execution of their duty is punishable by two years in prison.