Sentencing of Hong Kong Policeman Sparks Attacks on 'Non-Chinese' Judge
Supporters of former senior police officer Frankly Chu, found guilty of causing 'actual bodily harm' to an unarmed bystander in the 2014 pro-democracy protests, call magistrate Bina Chainrai a "dog," local media reports.
Vocal public attacks on a Hong Kong judge who jailed a former police officer for attacking a bystander during the 2014 pro-democracy movement have prompted further concerns over the status of the judiciary in the city.
Supporters of former policeman Frankly Chu called Eastern Court magistrate Bina Chainrai a "dog" and attacked her ethnicity on Wednesday after she had sentenced him to three months' imprisonment in connection with an unprovoked attack on an unarmed member of the public, local media reported.
Some 30 of Chu's supporters had gathered outside the court ahead of the sentencing, holding banners that read "Injustice," "An insult to Hong Kong's police!" and "Hong Kong has become an international joke!"
They also said Chinese territory should be ruled by Chinese judges, government broadcaster RTHK reported, while the city's South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted a woman at the scene with a megaphone as shouting: "Dismiss all foreign judges, we want Chinese ones. This is outrageous."
The court passed the sentence after finding Chu, 58, guilty of "actual bodily harm" at his trial on Dec. 18. Chu had swung his baton at Osman Cheng, hitting him in the neck as he was passing a group of protesters in Mong Kok on Nov. 6, 2014, the court heard.
"This sentence wasn't harsh, but it was unnecessary," Chu's defense lawyer Peter Pannu told reporters after the hearing. "We have plenty of basis [on which to appeal]."
Cheng said the length of the sentence didn't matter to him.
"The most important thing is that the court has issued its [guilty] verdict to show the general public that this sort of behavior by the police is wrong," he told reporters. "They have a duty to protect citizens and shouldn't be used as the political tool of the government."
He said claims that the case would harm morale just meant the police can't see when they have a problem.
"It is nonsense to say that the police should close ranks and protect each other when they do something wrong, for fear of damaging morale," Cheng said.
The ethnicity of some of Hong Kong's judges was also brought up early last year when District Court judge David Dufton jailed seven police officers for two years for beating up Occupy Central protester Ken Tsang. Dufton was called a "yellow dog" for the decision, in a reference to the yellow umbrella emblem of the protests.
Mainland media also "questioned the wisdom of allowing foreign judges to serve in Hong Kong, with commentaries accusing some judges in the territory of being biased," the SCMP said.
Meanwhile, Progressive Lawyers Group co-convener Kevin Yam said that verbal attacks on Chainrai could amount to contempt of court.
Chu's supporters may have gone too far in their attacks on Chainrai, Yam said in an interview with RTHK.
"I think it's absolutely outrageous and it shows a complete and utter ignorance of the legal system that we have, and the fact that we have for the longest of time had judges from all common law backgrounds," Yam said.
"In the case of the magistrate in question, she has been in Hong Kong for a long, long, time,” Yam said. There's no question of her somehow being a 'foreigner.' What has happened in terms of these comments, in my view anyway, borders on the criminal."
He said "egregious" comments without basis could potentially undermine confidence in the administration of justice, and therefore constitute contempt of court, hitting out at the city's justice secretary Rimsky Yuen, for failing to prosecute people for similar attacks in the past.
Chu has been released on bail pending an appeal.