Ex-policeman denies striking bystander with baton in Hong Kong Occupy protests
Frankly Chu says he exercised reasonable force to disperse riotous crowd
A retired senior police officer on Monday denied striking a bystander with a baton during Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy protests and said he was merely exercising his lawful powers to disperse an unruly crowd.
Frankly Chu, 57, broke his silence with a handwritten English police statement that was revealed at Eastern Court, where the former superintendent is facing one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He denies the charge, saying he never intended to hurt anyone.
“I am devastated with the decision to charge me after more than 35 years of loyal and dedicated service,” the officer said in the statement, which he wrote upon his arrest on March 27. “This predicament is very saddening.
“The act for which I am charged ... was a conscious decision I made as a senior officer in good faith, and I honestly and genuinely believed that reasonable force was needed to disperse the unruly crowd, of which the alleged victim was believed to be an active member.
“I will vigorously defend myself and clear my name in the court of law, which I have absolute trust in.”
On Monday, Chu arrived at court backed by members of the Alliance in Support of Our Police Force. He was seen taking notes and going through documents as Daniel Marash SC opened the prosecution case against him.
It was alleged the former Sha Tin divisional commander struck Osman Cheng Chung-hang on the back of the neck with a baton on November 26, 2014. Officers were exercising crowd control outside Shanghai Commercial Bank on Nathan Road in Mong Kok at the time.
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The operation was aimed at preventing protesters reoccupying thoroughfares in the busy shopping district, where they had been staging a mass sit-in for two months, calling for greater democracy.
Cheng, 28, said he had been accompanying a female friend walking past the bank when a crowd rushed at them from behind, followed by police.
“As I saw police appearing on my right, I felt my right shin kicked,” he testified.
Cheng further recalled being hit by a police baton on his right elbow and the back of his neck, despite obeying instructions to walk on and telling officers he was only passing by. He did not see who it was that struck the blows.
“I felt someone hit me. I pressed that spot and I felt slightly dizzy,” he said, while pointing to his neck, which drew laughter from the gallery.
The court heard Cheng went to a doctor two days later in Sha Tin, who identified three injuries, including a horizontal, linear injury on the left of his neck. He was granted one day’s sick leave.
“I was in pain,” Cheng said, when asked why he went to the doctor. “I could not turn [my neck] to the right ... I had to turn with my whole body.”
The baton measured 59cm by 2.5cm, and weighed 350 grams.
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Under cross-examination by defence counsel Peter Pannu, Cheng said he was supported the Occupy movement and had spent the night at the Admiralty site for more than half of the protest.
He also admitted sharing his experience on Instagram, with one of the captions reading: “Hongkongers would always rise again, you take Queen’s Road, I will take Lung Wo Road until you listen.”
Cheng reported the attack to police on November 29, 2014, after learning the officer’s identity from newspaper reports and social media. Chu was arrested more than two years later on March 27 this year.
There was no dispute over identity.
The case against Chu hinges on whether the baton blow constituted reasonable use of force and whether Chu had honestly and genuinely believed it to be so.
The officer claimed: “I was purely exercising my lawful powers under the Public Order Ordinance and Criminal Procedure Ordinance in the execution of my lawful and obligatory duties under the Police Force Ordinance – laws of the Hong Kong special administrative region.”
He said the force he used was “proportionate and reasonable” as he had to disperse an “unruly and riotous crowd” and prevent crimes, as well as protect himself and his subordinates “who were exposed to harm”.
“It was [necessary] to take action given that we were outnumbered and the crowd was violent and we did not have any other viable tactical options,” Chu said. “I had no intention of harming anyone.”
News footage played in court showed a loud and chaotic scene in which officers were trying to disperse a crowd walking in front of the bank.
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Some officers in the five videos shown were seen hitting the crowd with their batons, while others were pushing people forward with their hands and circular shields.
“Go, go,” several people are heard shouting.
Among those hit by the baton was Cheng, who was seen immediately touching his neck while shielding a woman with his other hand.
One video then cuts to an angry Cheng, who shouts with a curse: “I was just passing by, I was just passing by.”
The defence is expected to challenge the videos, as Chu argued in his statement they did not “truly capture the violent moments” before he dealt the blow.
The trial continues before Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai.