A former secondary school student pleaded guilty to slashing a police officer’s neck during a protest in 2019, admitting in court on Tuesday that he “made a big mistake” owing to his immaturity and foolishness.

Reading a mitigation statement at the High Court, Hui Tim-lik – now 21 – said he had reflected on the assault and hoped that such behaviour would not occur in society again, InMedia reported.

High Court
High Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Hui added that he wished to personally apologise to the police officer he attacked and that he expressed deep condolences to his family, friends and comrades.

The court will sentence him for one count of wounding with intent on Monday. His initial charge of attempted murder, which prosecutors pushed for earlier, will be left on file.

October 2019 protest

The assault took place during a protest on October 13, 2019, when anti-extradition law demonstrators gathered in districts including Kwun Tong, Sha Tin and Tsuen Wan where some blocked roads and vandalised shops. Protesters and police officers clashed throughout the day.

In the afternoon, a protester charged towards a team of police officers on a footbridge leading to Kwun Tong’s APM mall. The protester ran up to the officers from behind and jabbed a box cutter into an officer’s neck. The right side of his neck began bleeding profusely.

Hui, then 18, was arrested at the scene. The officer, Sergeant Wesley Leung, suffered a 3 to 4 cm wound on his neck, resulting in permanent injury to his vocal cords, the court heard.

apm mall
APM shopping mall. Photo: Wikicommons

Police conducted a search of Hui’s home the next day, InMedia reported. In his bedroom, officers found a note detailing his last will and testament. “I will absolutely not commit suicide. The one that kills me is the tyranny,” the note read.

Hong Kong was rocked by months-long demonstrations in 2019, when protesters took to the streets to oppose a controversial extradition bill that would allow suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial. By the time the bill was shelved in September, the protests had grown into a wider pro-democracy movement against Beijing’s perceived overreach, as demonstrators rallied against alleged police misbehaviour.

Leung spent six days in hospital, the court heard. He was granted seven months of medical leave and only returned to work in May 2020.

‘Reflected deeply’

Citing a psychiatrist’s report, the defence said that Hui had autism spectrum disorder, causing him to have weak self-control and to be easily swayed by the actions of others. But the court rejected the argument, stating that mitigation letters written by his teachers and girlfriend suggested that Hui was a “normal student” and not somebody who committed a crime because of his emotional state.

"June 21, 2019" Police headquarters protest
Protesters outside police headquarters in Wan Chai on June 21, 2019. Photo: Studio Incendo.

“I have reflected deeply,” the 21-year-old said, adding that he was thankful for the guidance of correctional officers, clinical psychologists and clergy who visited him behind bars. Hui also told the court that he had enrolled in a psychology course at Hong Kong Metropolitan University, which he will begin next month, and that he hoped to become a psychologist.

Some 10,200 people – 40 per cent of them students – were arrested in relation to the protests in 2019. The demonstrations disappeared from the streets in 2020 due to Covid-19 social distancing measures and the national security law, which broadly criminalises acts including subversion and collusion with foreign forces.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.