A Hong Kong bus company says it will not provide legal assistance to a driver charged with careless driving after sounding his horn at a protest unless he pleads guilty.

New World First Bus (NWFB) driver Cheung Ho-yin was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving on September 6. During mass demonstrations that day, he passed by the congested junction of Nathan Road and Public Square Street and sounded the horn of his 970 route bus.

Police get on a NWFB bus to arrest its driver. Photo: Studio Incendo.

Riot police officers boarded the bus and made the arrest. After the force found a spanner in his bag, Cheung ,36, was also accused of possessing an offensive weapon.

When the case came to court later that month the charge was changed to careless driving, the offensive weapon charge was dropped and he was granted bail.

The bus company told Cheung it would not provide legal assistance unless he pleads guilty, according to Company Staff Union chair, Lam Kam-piu. Lam said the driver felt frustrated by the company’s decision and the union was finding legal assistance for Cheung and has reached out to protest fund 612 Humanitarian Fund.

Police have accused the NWFB driver of honking “unreasonably” and said the move had “seriously affected police work” and may “provoke” the emotions of people on the scene. The force also claimed the driver was travelling at a high speed and the vehicle – at one point – was very close to officers.

The union has denied the bus was speeding. It has condemned the arrest as arbitrary and demanded an apology from the force.

Police get on a NWFB bus to arrest its driver. Photo: Jimmy Lam/United Social Press.

Asked by Apple Daily for comment, the bus company confirmed the report and said the decision was made after lawyers representing Cheung had reviewed his testimony and other evidence. A spokesperson said the driver should appoint another lawyer as soon as possible if he chose to defend himself.

Those convicted of careless driving face a maximum penalty of HK$5,000 and six months’ imprisonment.

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Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.