A Hong Kong district councillor has been given a suspended prison sentence for publishing the personal details of a policeman who allegedly fired a projectile and partially blinded an Indonesian journalist during a protest last November.

The High Court on Monday sentenced District Councillor Cheng Lai-king to a 28-day term of imprisonment suspended for 12 months for contempt of court.

Cheng was found guilty of violating a doxxing injunction granted by the court last year by releasing the details of a police officer.

cheng lai king central and western district chair arrested
Cheng Lai-king at a district council meeting. File photo: inmediahk.net. via C.C.2.0.

Journalist Veby Mega Indah lost the sight of one eye while reporting on the city-wide protests gripping Hong Kong at the time. She has sought to take legal action against the force. HKFP has contacted her for comment.

Cheng, a pro-democracy councillor and chairperson for the Central and Western district, disclosed the officer’s personal details in a Facebook post in late March after the Hong Kong Police Force refused to identify the offending officer.

Cheng was arrested in March under a colonial-era law against sedition.

‘Higher burden’

Cheng’s counsel Martin Lee argued that she had simply forgotten about the injunction and it was not the court’s role to “punish someone for forgetting about the order.”

But Justice Russell Coleman ruled that Cheng’s position as a public figure with a substantial social media following placed a higher burden on her to be more careful about her actions online.

“Influence comes with its own inherent dangers.  If a person has a large social media following, including as a result of holding political office, the person wielding that potential influence needs to guard against those inherent dangers,” he said in his judgement.

high court
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

“The court’s punishment is not imposed to punish any forgetfulness, but rather to punish the failure to have thought through the consequences of the chosen actions before the actions were performed.”

“In this case, sight must also not be lost of the fact that doxxing is inherently deeply unattractive and itself capable of constituting criminal activity,” the judge added.

The judge took into account Cheng’s decades-long record of public service and upstanding character as mitigating factors in his sentencing.

Cheng’s Facebook page had a following of over 44,000 as of Tuesday morning.

Hong Kong’s Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data Ada Chung said in a statement on Tuesday that she welcomed the court’s ruling: “The cyber world is not beyond the law. The two
interim injunction orders relating to doxxing granted by the High Court last year are still
in force at present. Contempt of court is a serious matter,” a statement read.

Chung also urged members of the public not to “flout the law.”

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methods
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

Success! You're on the list.

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.