Hong Kong’s High Court has overturned a previous ruling by the Coroner’s Court that a taxi driver was “unlawfully killed” at the hands of a police officer in 2012. A new death inquest will take place.
In a judgement handed down on Friday, Judge Albert Wong said he “consider[ed] it appropriate to order the death inquest to be conducted afresh before another Coroner.”
The verdict came more than a decade since the death of taxi driver Chan Fai-wong. On November 11, 2012, police were called to the Kowloon entrance of Western Harbour Tunnel after Chan got into a fare dispute with his passengers.
Officers arrested the 65-year-old, who resisted as they attempted to put him in a police vehicle. An officer, Lam Wai-wing, then grabbed him by the neck in a chokehold as he was lifted from the ground.
Chan was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Two days after the arrest, he was diagnosed with cervical vertebra dislocation. He died of bronchitis, a complication from his neck injury, a month later.
During an inquest at the Coroner’s Court in 2018, the five-person jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing by a majority of three to two. The police officer subsequently applied for a judicial review.
‘Error of law’
In the written judgement, judge Wong said Lam’s main complaint was that the Coroner’s summing up of the case before the jury was “defective,” therefore amounting to an “error of law.”
Based on the Coroner’s summary, the jury at the time did not contemplate related issues such as whether Lam had used “unreasonable force,” and whether there was “intent to apply unlawful force,” Lam, represented by Senior Counsel Jat Sew-tong, argued.
Jat also stated that there was “confusion” caused to the jury as there was “no adequate delineation of what the unlawful act was.”
Lam has not been prosecuted over the driver’s death.
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