A Hong Kong court has upheld the non-guilty verdict on a Swiss photographer who was accused of aiding an attack on a mainland Chinese man during the protests and unrest of 2019.

Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts on Thursday upheld the acquittal of Marc Progin on one charge of aiding and abetting disorder in a public place. The ruling came almost a year and a half after he was acquitted in the initial trial and prosecutors appealed.

Marc Progin
Swiss photographer Marc Progin outside Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts on April 28, 2022. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP.

The 77-year-old said he was “very happy” with the outcome, adding that it was within expectations as the prosecution did not put forward any new facts.

“The judge was fair and it was a fair trial,” Progin told HKFP. “I have no complaints.”

‘Wrong place, wrong moment’

Progin was arrested over an incident in Central in October 2019, when Hong Kong was rocked by protests over a controversial extradition bill. The Swiss man was accused of assisting an attack on a mainland Chinese man who had shouted “We are all Chinese!” by closing the glass door of the Chater House office building, after which a protester dashed forward and punched the mainlander.

The video of the violent exchange during the lunchtime protest went viral and caused widespread anger online in the mainland.

Kowloon City Law Courts Building
Kowloon City Law Courts Building. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Progin pleaded not guilty in court the following September, with the defence arguing that he was simply doing his job and had closed the door to get a better shot.

He was cleared of the charge in November 2020 but the prosecution applied for a review.

At the review hearing last week, prosecutors said Progin had acted with “wilful blindness” by closing the door, arguing that he was aware of tensions between mainland Chinese and Hong Kong people and wanted the commotion to continue.

Magistrate Stephanie Tsui rejected the claims, ruling there was no evidence that the defendant intended to assist the attack.

july 28 Hong Kong island protest china extradition
A protest in 2019. File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Progin said. “As I always say, wrong place, wrong moment.”

He added that he was only at the scene for one minute and 43 seconds. “You [would] have to be very smart to organise a crime and be an accomplice [in that time],” he said.

More than 10,200 people were arrested during the 2019 protests. Cases are still making their way through the city’s courts, with Secretary for Security Chris Tang saying on Wednesday that the collection of evidence and arrangements for legal representation were among the factors for the prolonged period.

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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.