A Hong Kong police officer who shot a man during the 2019 protests lacked experience handling unrest and may have panicked, a lawyer for the injured protester told a court.

Chow Pak-kwan – who sustained the gunshot wound – and Woo Tsz-kin appeared before Judge Adrianna Noelle Tse Ching in District Court on Thursday.

Wan Chai Law Courts Building. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Both faced charges of obstructing a police officer and attempting to snatch an officer’s gun, while Chow was also charged with attempted escape. They pleaded not guilty last June.

Chow was 21 at the time, while Woo was 20.

Senior Counsel Laurence Lok, representing Chow, argued that the officer – a traffic policeman – had never taken part in operations that involved the subduing of protesters before this case, and looked “a bit panic-stricken” in a clip of him opening fire, local court reporting outlet The Witness said.

Lok said the court should consider whether the officer may have been “oversensitive” due to his lack of experience.

A protest in Sai Wan Ho on November 11, 2019, in which a traffic cop fired live rounds. Screenshot: Cupid Producer.

The incident occurred on November 11, 2019, about five months into the anti-extradition protests that gripped Hong Kong.

That morning, protesters clashed with police in Sai Wan Ho as Hongkongers called for a general strike. A video showed a police officer, who was subduing a protester, shooting a man dressed head to toe in black.

Another protester then appeared to try and grab the officer’s gun, a clip showed, after which the officer fired two more shots. It was unclear if they hit anybody.

Chow was rushed to hospital in critical condition, and reportedly had a kidney and half of his liver removed.

Court to deliver verdict in August

Addressing the court on Thursday, prosecutors said Chow and Woo intended to snatch the officer’s gun. Lok argued that Chow was attempting to push away the gun, while Woo’s representative, barrister Lisa d’Almada Remedios, said Woo only touched the gun but did not snatch it.

A protest in 2019. File photo: May James/HKFP.

The officer was earlier granted anonymity by the court, and was known only as “officer A.”

The judge will hand down the verdicts on August 29.

Around 10,250 people were arrested in connection with the 2019 protests, around 40 per cent of whom were secondary school or university students.

The protests tapered off in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the passing of Beijing’s national security law.

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Hillary Leung

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.