A man convicted of biting off former district councillor Andrew Chiu’s left ear and slashing a man in the stomach during a protest in 2019 has been sentenced to 14 years and six months in prison.

High Court judge Judianna Barnes described defendant Joe Chen’s attack on Chiu as “barbaric” when handing down the sentence on Tuesday, adding that the attacks were “unbelievable,” local media reported.

Andrew Chiu april 26 taikoo mall
Andrew Chiu with his left ear wrapped under bandage. File photo: Rachel Wong/HKFP.

Last December, a jury found Chen, who is 52 years old and suffers from depression, guilty of the attack on Chiu, slashing and stabbing a man with a knife, and wounding two others at the Cityplaza shopping mall in Tai Koo Shing on November 3, 2019.

Several sit-in protests occurred at shopping malls across the city in November 2019 during protests against a now-axed bill that would have allowed extradition of suspects to mainland China. Police stormed the Cityplaza mall after the entrances of two restaurants were vandalised while the attack took place outside. Chen launched the attack when he was met with an insult after chanting “liberate Taiwan.”

Andrew Chiu, who was the pro-democracy district councillor of Tai Koo Shing West at the time, tried to intervene but was attacked by Chen. Chen bit off Chiu’s left ear and spat it to the ground. Chiu later testified in court that an attempt to reattach his ear surgically had failed. The three other victims of the assault also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Andrew Chiu ear
Andrew Chiu’s attempt to reattach his ear failed. Photo: Andrew Chiu.

Chen’s lawyer argued that the defendant had no political inclination, but Barnes said the attacks appeared to stem from arguments deriving from different political views. Barnes said she believed Chen was under the influence of alcohol, acted alone and the attacks were not premeditated, but disagreed that Chen’s depression played a part in his actions.

Victim of ‘vigilantism’

The starting point of Chen’s sentence was set at 18 years, but Barnes gave him a three-and-a-half-year reduction, saying Chen was a victim of “vigilantism” and had needed an operation on his brain. His family members were also harassed.

Chiu, meanwhile is also in custody. He is among the 47 democrats facing national security charges over the democrats’ primary election in July 2020.

Correction 20/4/2022: An earlier version of this article misstated the reduction of Chen’s sentence. We regret the error.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.