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Occupy Central

Retired senior policeman who hit Occupy protest bystander with baton will be sentenced next week

Frankly Chu, 58, was earlier found guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm for striking passer-by Osman Cheng

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 6:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 11:18pm

A retired senior police officer who struck a bystander with a baton during Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests will learn his punishment next Wednesday after sentencing reports revealed a recommendation for community service.

The Eastern Court also heard that 40 letters were submitted in Frankly Chu’s mitigation, from writers who included two former police commissioners and four lawmakers.

The ex-superintendent has been remanded in custody since December 18, when Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai found him guilty of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, an offence punishable by three years’ imprisonment.

Defence counsel Peter Pannu urged the magistrate to adopt the recommendation for community service, a non-custodial sentence of up to 240 hours of unpaid voluntary work, or impose a suspended sentence if jail was necessary.

“The case is an unfortunate one. [Chu] might have miscalculated as to what was required of him,” Pannu said. “The fact that he has to end his career like this is big enough a punishment.”

Chu, who had spent his 58th birthday on Christmas Day in custody, watched his counsel from the dock, his eyes tired and heavily swollen.

Outside court, more than a hundred police supporters waited impatiently for news, demanding entry to the courtroom ahead of regular hours.

“Chu King-wai has reason to enforce the law,” some chanted. “Hong Kong citizens are very angry.”

The case was the second time that a court had found officers guilty of using excessive force while policing the 79-day Occupy protests, which shut down major roads in protesters’ call for greater democracy.

In February, seven police officers were sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for punching and kicking an activist who poured liquid over their colleagues. All seven men have since lodged appeals.

The present trial heard Chu lashed out his baton on November 26, 2014 after seeing Osman Cheng Chung-hang display what he considered aggressive behaviour towards a colleague. But Cheng, 28, testified that he was only turning his head to tell officers he was passing by the area in Mong Kok.

The magistrate said in her verdict that it was “unacceptable” for Chu to assault a pedestrian and concluded that it was a serious offence committed by a senior serving officer.

In mitigation, defence presented 40 letters from 12 retired commanding officers, including two police commissioners, union groups, four lawmakers, his fellow church-goers, taxi groups and a number of senior Macau police, intelligence and customs officers.

They also include a letter of appreciation from a former chief executive and a letter of merit from a former Secretary for Civil Service, whose names were not disclosed.

Pannu said these letters depicted a person who had given dedicated service to the community since he joined the force and showed “his unblemished performance in public service, his unfailing commitment in his service that he’s proud of”.

He also described Chu as a good friend, a caring husband and a good father, but was interrupted by the magistrate who noted: “He’s divorced from his wife, now in another relationship. He’s no longer a caring husband.”

Pannu replied that there was no fall out among the former spouses and drew the court’s attention to Chu’s three children: a daughter studying law and two sons who followed his footsteps to become police officers.

He stressed that the event took place in 30 seconds while he was policing about 600 people who were trying to reoccupy the Mong Kok junction.

“The pressure on the police force was enormous,” Pannu continued. “Asia’s finest may not be Asia’s finest if the mob had retaken the place.”