A police union has said that it is “extremely disappointed” at a court decision to imprison retired superintendent Frankly Chu for hitting a pedestrian during the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests.

The Junior Police Officers’ Association said in a statement Wednesday that “the decision will undoubtedly have a significant impact on law enforcement by frontline officers, as well as damage their morale.”

Frankly Chu
Frankly Chu. Photo: Ellie Ng/HKFP.

The remarks came shortly after Chu was sentenced to three months behind bars for striking passerby Osman Cheng with a baton in Mong Kok during the protests. The ex-officer was immediately released on bail pending his appeal.

Chu was convicted last month of one count of assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai refused to hand down a community service order, on the basis that a jail term was necessary to deter future police misconduct.

Citing previous court judgments, the magistrate said that officers who abused their power must be made an example of in order to restore public confidence in the force.

She said she had taken into account mitigating factors such as Chu’s “distinguished career of public service,” the stress he was working under during Occupy, and 40 letters of support from his police colleagues, lawmakers and churchgoers.

See also: Ex-cop convicted of assault during Occupy had ‘selfless commitment’ to public service, claims lawyer

Chu appeared outside the court but did not speak to the press. He was ordered to report to Central Police Station every week as a condition for his bail.

frankly chu car
A chaotic scene outside court as reporters surrounded Chu’s car, while police supporters and democracy activists shouted slogans with loudspeakers. Photo: Ellie Ng/HKFP.

Last month, the junior police union said Chu’s conviction “confused” frontline officers over when they could use force legally. On Wednesday, it said it would convey its members’ concerns to the force management while promising to assist Chu with his court case.

Another police union, the Superintendents’ Association, previously described Chu as being “passionate about his work and well-liked by his colleagues.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker and former security chief Regina Ip said Wednesday that the jail sentence was reasonable, though she was saddened by the decision.

Insults at magistrate

Chu was charged last March, more than 850 days after the incident took place. Last year, Cheng’s lawyers threatened a private prosecution if the justice secretary continued to take no action on the case.

While the pro-democracy camp had been demanding Chu be held accountable for his actions, Chu has received support from the pro-establishment camp.

On Wednesday, dozens of people gathered outside the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts waving banners saying that police officers were only trying to combat violence by “rioters.”

They hurled insults at Magistrate Chainrai, calling her a “dog.” They said foreign judges were undesirable and that it would only be fair if “Chinese people were tried by Chinese judges.”

frankly chu case
Demonstrators gather outside court. Photo: Ellie Ng/HKFP.

They accused the judiciary of being unfair and called the court decision an “international joke.”

The Progressive Lawyers Group said in a statement on Wednesday evening that “Any attack on anyone based on one’s ethnicity must not be tolerated…Even worse, personal attacks on a judge for reasons unrelated to the judgment is an attack on Hong Kong’s judicial independence.”

Similar incidents took place last year when District Court Judge David Dufton jailed seven police officers for two years for hitting and kicking activist Ken Tsang in another high-profile police assault case during the Occupy protests.

The Department of Justice told HKFP at the time that it was “very concerned” about attacks against judges and had referred conduct that may constitute contempt of court to law enforcement agencies. No arrests have been made so far.

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.