Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui has been convicted of three charges over an incident last April where he snatched a government officer’s phone.
The Eastern Magistrates’ Court on Monday found Hui guilty of common assault, obstructing a public officer and access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent. He will be sentenced on June 10.
Last April, Hui snatched a phone belonging to an executive officer who was tasked with keeping track of lawmakers’ whereabouts in the Legislative Council complex. Hui complained at the time that the government’s “paparazzi team” was encroaching on the legislature and violated lawmakers’ privacy.
The executive officer, Christina Leung, told the court in March that she was “shocked and at a loss” that Hui took her phone, which he then examined inside a men’s bathroom. Leung said that she was given the phone on the day of the incident by a government staff member, and the phone had a Google spreadsheet to record the locations of lawmakers.
The government often send staff to keep tabs on lawmakers and rally them to vote for certain legislation.
Magistrate Cheng Lim-chi said on Monday that it was reasonable for Leung to feel afraid when her phone was snatched, and that Hui must have used a certain amount of force to take it from her.
Cheng added that Hui was not acting in his capacity as a lawmaker, and he could not say he was stopping illegal acts as he was not a law enforcement agent or a security guard.
Hui’s sentencing was postponed for the court to seek a report on whether he was suitable for community service. However, the magistrate noted Hui showed no remorse, and that an immediate jail term was still on the cards.
A lawmaker could be disqualified if they miss meetings for three consecutive months; they can also be removed if they are jailed for over a month and two-thirds of the Legislative Council vote in favour of impeachment.
Prosecution ‘not political’
After receiving the verdict, Hui told reporters that he needed to consult his lawyers before deciding whether to appeal. He added that he hoped to avoid jail time: “The next two to three weeks will be when the legislature scrutinises the extradition bill, and I don’t want to miss the key moment that determines Hong Kong’s fate.”
“I’m not worried about myself, [but] if the sentence will affect the Legislative Council’s progress, or make it impossible [for me] to participate, then that is a major loss that I wouldn’t want to see,” Hui added.
Hui had earlier told the court to consider his motives when determining the sentence, adding that many court cases in recent years penalised the actions of protesters, but did not take into account the government’s unfair acts that sparked protests in the first place.
However, the magistrate Cheng said that Hui’s case was not political in nature. “There are people who say this case is politically motivated prosecution, but I don’t see that… At least from the evidence I saw, I can say you snatched the phone,” Cheng said.
Cheng said that Hui could take the government to court over the legality of their “paparazzi teams,” but said that would be dealt with separately from his criminal charges.
Around 40 people showed up at the court building on Monday morning to support Hui, including his Democratic Party colleagues James To, Roy Kwong and Lam Cheuk-ting. Hui told his supporters he was still opposed to the “paparazzi teams” and would continue to pay attention to the issue.
Hui’s membership in the Democratic Party has been suspended following the incident, and an investigation committee has been set up by the legislature.
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