A man arrested in Wan Chai on 1st January and wrongly accused of having tools for illegal use, prosecution withdraws charges
The march held by the Civil Human Rights Front on New Year’s Day this year was called off by the police just three hours after it began. A 19-year-old construction worker was near the Wan Chai Police Headquarter and turned around when he saw the police officers on the same day. The police officers came up and intercepted him. They found him carrying a packet of white sugar, an empty glass bottle, two lighters and etc. He was charged with possession of tools for illegal use. The case was heard again today. The prosecution admitted that the evidence in hand did not give a reasonable chance for conviction and applied for withdrawal. The defendant was granted legal costs. Outside the court, the defendant claimed that the case was a slander and that he had never taken to the streets for Hong Kong’s political affairs in the past. He had been driven to come forward because of the Anti-Extradition Bill movement. Even though he had experienced so much in the case, he remained unrepentant.
The defendant ( 19-year-old ) was originally charged with one count of possessing tools for illegal use and attempting to use for illegal purposes. The charges alleged that on 1st January this year, he was on the overpass of Arsenal Street, near Queen’s Road East, with an empty glass bottle, a packet of 454 grams of sugar, two lighters, a gas mask, a roll of cling film, two pairs of gloves, seven black masks, two goggles and a black headgear. He had been initially remanded in custody and was granted bail by the court later.
The prosecution claimed in the court today that, after evaluating the evidence, it was not sufficient to support the evidence without reasonable doubt. The prosecution applied for the withdrawal of the charges, which was accepted by the Magistrate. The prosecution also made no application for the confiscation of any items and all the exhibits were returned to the defendant. However, the prosecution objected to the payment of legal costs to the defendant, pointing out that the defendant lived in Tsing Yi and he was passing the scene not as a neighbour at the time of the incident and presenting a photograph of the defendant’s clothing at the time.
The Magistrate, Ms Heung Sook-han, asked the prosecution that the procession was called off at about 5 p.m. because of the public safety incident but the defendant had been arrested as early as 2 p.m. It should still be a lawful procession at that time and there was no disturbance. The prosecution confirmed and admitted that the defendant could indeed be a participant in the CHRF’s lawful march but questioned why he had to carry two pairs of gloves to the march.
As for the white sugar, the prosecution said frankly that “I know it was neutral” but pointed out that the sugar might be related to the making of petrol bombs. However, the prosecution admitted that there was no evidence that the defendant was aware of this. The prosecution also pointed out that the defendant had a lighter and reconsidered his clothing and his belongings to be suspicious, and that he was not a participant in the lawful procession. It is known that the prosecution’s photo showed the item which was a pack of 454 grams of “BESTbuy” white sugar.
The defence applied for legal costs and pointed out that although the prosecution claimed the lighters and the glass bottle might be associated with petrol bombs, and that the sugar could also be used to damage the car cylinders and engines, there was no evidence to accuse the defendant of having the intention of possession of the items involved for unlawful purposes. As for the prosecution’s allegations that the police officers suspected simply because the defendant turned away and that suspected the defendant’s glass bottle was used to throwto the police patrol car under the overpass, however, all were also not supported by any evidence.
The defence continued to point out that the accused remained silent throughout his investigation, without making any reference to self-confessed charges or misleading the prosecution.
The Magistrate asked for the attorney’s documents of fee. After reading, she said that a half-page letter was too expensive and questioned: “A letter requires three thousand?” She further pointed out that It only requested the defendant to provide data. This was a general standard work. In addition, the Magistrate also found the fee of $6,000 which was for the solicitor to give the barrister an instruction regarding today’s hearing was unreasonable. The defence explained that the lawyer had given another instruction on the application for legal costs. The magistrate eventually granted legal costs of $18,800. It is known outside the court that the granted costs differed from the quotation of the original documents about $10,000.
When leaving the court, it was difficult for Tsang to hide the joy. When the reporters came forward to congratulate and interview him again, he said shily, “Ah, I don’t know how to say,” and then continued, “I’m better than the other fellows.” He was detained by the police for 48 hours. During the detention, he was constantly bombarded for making a confession. The reporters asked what he felt as he had just been dismissed from the charge. He answered very clearly: “It is a revenge on the police, not fear of the police.”
However, he could not get back $3,000 bail from the court accounting department immediately because he had lost the bail bond. He disclosed that at present, his father was unemployed and idling at home, his mother was a housewife, and a sister who was in secondary school needs to be supported. It could be said that he was the only breadwinner of the family. They felt the pinch. That $3,000 was his father’s saving, so he hoped to get it back as soon as possible. Despite that, he still wanted to have a short trip abroad with his family for relaxing when the epidemic ends.
As for the withdrawal, he responded: “The glass object was found in my back. It could not prove to be (criminal). It was their subjective idea and was kind of slander. Recalling his arrest on New Year’s Day, he said that though the police did not hit him, they continuously “greeted” him with foul language, such as “Jesus cannot save you”, “After growing up, you will feel fxxk silly when you look back.” He said that he was taken to the police station after being arrested. The police officers used different tricks to extract confession from him. Not only did they ask about his family background, but they also asked strange questions, “What was the sugar for? Was it for making petrol bombs? I have just watched a video about that sugar can enhance the power of petrol bombs.” He faced constant bombardments and thought that there were five police officers confronting him at the same time.
He was then taken to make fingerprint. When he asked why, the police did not explain, only saying: “Don’t ask, make it first. If ask again, hit you” and then continuing to ask if he knew another fellow under arrest. He was detained for 48 hours and was not allowed to be bailed until he went to the court. He said that he would not blame anyone, but was “not willing” to be arrested for this reason.
In spite of that, Tsang said publicly he would not regret it. He said in the past he had never taken to the streets because of concern about Hong Kong’s political affairs. He was driven to step forward for the Anti-Extradition Bill movement and went to the streets for the first time. “Seeing so many people under arrest, if I didn’t come out, I was afraid I would regret in the future.” He also said he had not been intimidated and would still stand up against injustice in the future. Winning friendship, knowing a number of fellows, a dozen of fellows cheered him when Tsang was leaving the court and made a joke on him to treat them. The shy boy pulled up his hat and walked into the crowd awkwardly, avoiding the reporters’ cameras.