Activist Joshua Wong was “dragged and pulled” onto a police van and handcuffed at a protest last year during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit, the Small Claims Tribunal heard on Thursday.

Wong is suing the Commissioner of Police for assault and false imprisonment on the grounds that it was unlawful for the police officers to handcuff him without first placing him under arrest. Wong is representing himself and seeking compensation of HK$45,000.

Wong, Secretary-General of the Demosisto Party, took part in a protest on the day of the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China, which coincided with Xi’s visit to the city. The protesters attempted to reach a flag-raising ceremony at Golden Bauhinia Square but were met with pro-Beijing counter-protesters near Wan Chai’s MTR station. During the confrontation, Wong was among the 20 protesters taken away by police.

handover scuffle lsd
Protests during Xi Jinping’s visit. File Photo: LSD.

At the Tribunal, Wong told Deputy Adjudicator Simon Ho that the police had not arrested him for his actions at the protest, either on the day or afterwards. Wong argued that the police are only permitted to use handcuffs after making a lawful arrest.

Wong said that six uniformed police officers approached him at the protest and pulled him away without any notification or explanation. He was handcuffed after being brought onto the police van, and was taken to Wan Chai Police Station and held for around 20 minutes in total. Wong asked for the handcuffs to be removed but claims he was ignored.

“I told him [the officer] I was not struggling, I was not agitated, and the handcuffs should be taken off,” Wong told the Tribunal. “I was dissatisfied because I believed the police officers were abusing their power.”

West Kowloon Law Courts Building
West Kowloon Law Courts Building. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

The defendant, represented by the Department of Justice, argued that the police removed Wong from the scene to avoid further disruption to public order, and that using handcuffs was a “minimal” and “reasonable” use of force.

A defence witness told the Tribunal that Wong was uncooperative and needed to be lifted into the police van. Wong then became “emotionally unstable” and “flailed around,” hitting police officers with his arms and legs, so he was handcuffed for his own safety and the safety of the officers.

Another defence witness said it is “rare” for police officers to handcuff people who are not arrested.

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.