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Hong Kong Police and anti-government protesters clash in Tsuen Wan on August 25, 2019. Photo: Sam Tsang.

Hong Kong protests: social worker cleared of obstructing police officer to face retrial, High Court rules

  • Magistrate erred in trial of social worker cleared of police obstruction and failure to show ID at 2019 anti-government protest, judge rules
  • Appeal judge says lower court failed to take all the circumstances into account when not guilty verdicts delivered
Brian Wong

A Hong Kong social worker cleared of obstructing a police officer and failure to show identification during an anti-government protest in 2019 is to face a retrial after a High Court judge ruled the acquittal was based on a wrong interpretation of the law.

Lam Hiu-wa, now 25, was ordered to return to the magistrates’ court to have the case heard again.

Mr Justice Albert Wong Sung-hau accepted the arguments of the appellant, the prosecution in the original hearing, in his Wednesday ruling and said the magistrate, who based her verdict primarily on video evidence, did not appear to have taken all the circumstances into account.

Lam appeared in court in 2020 charged with obstruction of Leung Man-yi, a police inspector, for refusing to produce her identity card when asked.

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The incident happened outside a mobile phone store at the junction of Chung On Street and Tsuen Wan Market Street in Tsuen Wan on August 25, 2019.

The inspector alleged at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court trial in August 2020 that Lam, who was then 22, led about 100 people gathered in the area in anti-police chants.

Lam denied chanting slogans and insisted that she was only walking past the scene with her boyfriend.

The lower court heard that Lam took out her ID card 43 seconds after Leung’s request, but held it in one hand and demanded that the officer show her police warrant card.

Leung did not accede to the demand, but a junior officer showed his official identification and warned Lam to cooperate before he left the scene.

Lam was arrested after a three-minute stand-off.

The High Court, where a social worker on Wednesday was ordered to face a retrial on charges of obstruction of a police officer and failure to show identification. Photo: Warton Li.

Magistrate Peony Wong Nga-yan cleared Lam of the charges and said that Lam’s insistence that Leung verify her identity did not amount to obstruction.

The magistrate added that, even though Lam did not hand over her ID card, she did not cover the details on the document and that Leung did not try to take it away from her for inspection.

But the prosecution later lodged an appeal on the grounds the magistrate did not give proper weight to Lam’s uncooperative behaviour, arguing it could have inflamed the situation and impeded the police operation.

The prosecution also highlighted Police General Orders, the force’s regulations, which stipulated that only one in a group of officers acting together was required to show a warrant card if asked.

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The High Court ruling said the lower court lacked a proper grasp of police protocol and failed to take into account whether Lam had any intention of letting police inspect her identification.

“I am of the view that, based on the evidence, there is no doubt that what the defendant did until the moment before her arrest clearly did not meet the requirement for producing proof of identity for inspection,” the judge said.

Lam’s boyfriend, Chuk Ka-lok, 25, was charged with assaulting Ken Chan King-cheung, a police constable, in the same incident.

A separate magistrate cleared him of the charge after finding that the officer’s testimony did not match the video evidence.