A Hong Kong citizen journalist has been sentenced to one month in jail for behaving in a disorderly manner in a public place on National Security Education Day last year.

Eric Wu appeared in front of Magistrate Andy Cheng at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Monday. He faced three charges, including wilfully obstructing an on-duty police officer in the execution of duty, and refusing or wilfully neglecting to obey an officer’s order.

West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts
West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Wu was convicted of behaving in a disorderly manner in a public place, and acquitted of the other two charges.

The citizen journalist was prosecuted after he was accused of berating officers with foul language at a Student Politicism street booth on National Security Education Day in April 2021. Student Politicism was a student-led prodemocracy group that disbanded last September after several members were charged under the national security law.

Local media reported that Wu made comments about previous police misconduct, including Frankly Chu, a police officer who was sentenced to three months in jail after hitting a pedestrian with a baton without prior warning during the Umbrella Movement protests in 2014.

Cheng ruled that Wu was making a racket and disrupting public order after considering the defendant’s volume and attitude, Ming Pao reported.

The magistrate also said Wu had intended to destroy the peace as his speech would have made people remember Chu’s misconduct and foment hatred for the police, which could lead to physical scuffles.

‘Far-fetched’ explanation

Wu was acquitted of obstructing a police officer after the magistrate ruled that the officer’s testimony in court was “far-fetched.”

According to InMedia, an officer said “continue speaking” at the scene while Wu was repeatedly asking whether the police would beat people up.

Andy Cheng
Magistrate Andy Cheng. File photo: Supplied.

In court, the officer testified that he said “continue speaking” to his colleague, who was standing behind him. The defence argued that the officer directed his comment at Wu, and by doing so, intentionally added fuel to the fire.

The magistrate ruled that the officer’s explanation was far-fetched, and said that according to the tone and expression, he believed that the officer was speaking to Wu.

Cheng also said that Wu was only speaking at the scene, that he did not block the officer’s camera with his hand, and that the officer could have filmed from another angle. Cheng therefore ruled that the defendant was not guilty of obstructing an officer.

On Wu’s last charge, InMedia also reported that while an inspector told the defendant to calm down, the magistrate said it was difficult to determine whether what the inspector said was an order or advice.

Cheng ruled that even if the inspector was ordering Wu, the defendant left soon afterwards, and thus acquitted Wu of wilfully neglecting to obey an order of a police officer.

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.