Retired superintendent Frankly Chu should be credited with his “selfless commitment to public service” despite being convicted of hitting a pedestrian with a baton, his lawyer has said.
“He could have said he should be excused from [Occupy operations] because he was close to retiring, but he didn’t say that and this was appreciated,” Chu’s counsel Peter Pannu said at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on Friday.
Chu, 57, was found guilty last Monday of one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm during the 2014 pro-democracy protests. He had spent two weeks at a detention centre before Friday’s mitigation hearing.
A number of videos taken on November 26, 2014 appear to show pedestrians being hit with a baton without prior warning as part of the police operation to disperse crowds that had gathered in the area.
Summarising 40 letters of appreciation Chu received from his police colleagues, lawmakers and churchgoers, Pannu said Chu is highly regarded as a “good friend and a respectable officer.” Chu’s daughter, who is studying law, also said Chu is a “good father.”
Pannu argued that it should be taken into account that Chu’s assault took place only less than a minute prior to “a mob charging” at police officers near where Chu was filmed hitting the victim Osman Cheng with a baton.
He said Cheng might have been part of the “mob.” But Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai dismissed the argument, saying that whether Cheng was a protester or not is irrelevant to the charge.
Magistrate Chainrai will hand down a sentence next Wednesday. Chu, who wore a suit and remained expressionless during the hearing, was taken back into custody.
Several supporters from the Alliance in Support of Our Police Force held placards outside court on Friday reading: “Police officers were arrested for trying to combat violence, Hongkongers are angry.”
During the trial, Chu said he sincerely believed in his duty to defend the rule of law and prevent the Mong Kok occupation area from being taken back by protesters. He denied that he had any political motive.
He also alleged that Cheng had acted aggressively towards his colleagues on the night in question, and therefore he decided to use “appropriate” force against Cheng.
Magistrate Chainrai said Cheng was a reliable and honest witness. The court found that he was only leaving the scene at the time and did not engage in violent acts, nor was he carrying any weapons.
She said Chu had no reason to hit Cheng with a baton, calling his actions unreasonable and unacceptable.
Chu was charged in March, more than 850 days after the incident took place. Earlier this year, Cheng’s lawyers threatened a private prosecution if the justice secretary continued to take no action on the case.