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Macau

Macau police threaten to sue lawmaker Au Kam-san for libel over claim he was wiretapped

Authorities set 10-day deadline for veteran politician to apologise for remarks made in local newspaper

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2018, 11:04am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2018, 1:26pm

Macau police have threatened to sue a local lawmaker for criminal libel if he does not apologise by Friday for suggesting that the force may have wiretapped him in the past.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Au Kam-san stood by his claim, however, saying the government would be going too far if it brought criminal action over comments made during a policy debate.

“If police really did not wiretap me, all they need to do is to clarify to the public, not try to sue me,” he told the Post.

The row between the veteran legislator and the police authority began after Macau’s government launched a public consultation on laws for intercepting communications to increase national security.

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Au told a local Chinese newspaper that in 2010 a former policeman shared with the lawmaker his plan to self-immolate as a protest against the authority.

But when it was time for the plan to be carried out, officers at the scene were prepared and had brought fire extinguishers, leading Au to suspect police may have wiretapped his phone.

In response to the remarks, the force issued a strongly worded statement slamming the politician for “ignoring the facts and slandering police for illegal interception”. According to the authority, the former officer had informed the media and shouted out his intentions before trying to set himself on fire.

If police really did not wiretap me, all they need to do is to clarify to the public, not try to sue me
Au Kam-san, lawmaker

The force said Au’s comments had brought “severe disrepute” on police and on the officer in charge and gave him 10 days – or until Friday – to apologise, before the authority initiated criminal proceedings against him.

According to Macau law, any criminal libel made via public media could result in a maximum sentence of two years in jail or a fine.

Au said he stood by his earlier remarks and “definitely would not apologise”.

“I was doing my job as a lawmaker and raised my queries towards the communication interception law under consultation,” he explained. “The government should not launch legal action against me.”

Macau Secretary for Security Wong Sio-chak, who had earlier said legal action would not be taken, later reversed his position, saying police had to defend the “dignity of the law”.

It is rare, but not unprecedented, for officials in the casino hub to bring a criminal libel case against citizens or politicians.

The Post has learned that a top Macau minister took similar legal action against Au after the lawmaker criticised the cabinet’s performance about eight years ago. For legal reasons, the name of the applicant and details of the proceeding cannot be revealed.