Hong Kong’s Department of Justice has applied to appeal against the acquittal of ex-lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting and two others after they were cleared of charges relating to a protest in 2019.

Lam Cheuk-ting
Lam Cheuk-ting. Photo: Legislative Council, via Flickr.

The 45-year-old was charged with perverting the course of justice after being accused of pressuring a man believed to be filming protesters outside Tuen Mun police station on July 6, 2019, to delete the footage.

However, a District Court judge ruled last month that the former lawmaker was trying to resolve a tense situation and had no intention of obstructing potential prosecution.

Lam was among three people charged in connection with the incident.

Ronnie Tsang, a 30-year-old decorator, faced a perverting the course of justice charge and one count of unlawful assembly charge, while social worker Aggie Chung, 41, was accused of assessing a computer with dishonest intent and criminal damage.

Like Lam, Chung was acquitted. Tsang was found guilty of taking part in an unlawful assembly.

Department of Justice
Department of Justice. File Photo: GovHK.

The Department of Justice has applied to appeal against the District Court’s decision.

An arrest warrant was also issued for former lawmaker Ted Hui, who had already left Hong Kong, in relation to the incident.

Lam has been remanded in custody since March 2021, when he was charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law in connection with another case. The democrat, along with 46 other pro-democracy figures including lawmakers and activists, stands accused of conspiring to commit subversion over his role in an unofficial primary election for the 2020 Legislative Council election, which was later postponed.

democrats extradition protest
Pro-democracy lawmakers speaking to reporters about their opposition of the extradition law amendment. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Separately, Lam was also charged with participating in a riot in Yuen Long on July 21, 2019. That night, dozens of rod-wielding men – reportedly with triad connections – gathered in Yuen Long MTR station, attacking commuters and protesters returning from a protest. Lam was among those assaulted.

That case has yet to proceed to trial.

‘Putting out fires’

The incident outside Tuen Mun police station took place about a month into the anti-extradition demonstrations, sparked by a proposed amendment to the city’s extradition bill that would have allowed fugitives to stand trial in mainland China.

Earlier that day, protesters had gathered in Tuen Mun Park to oppose “dai mas” – Cantonese slang for middle-aged women from mainland China who would sing, dance, and sometimes solicit donations from elderly men. Residents had long complained about them causing noise pollution and being a nuisance to families and young children.

According to local media, protesters outside the police station snatched the phone of a man accused of filming protesters and deleted some of the footage, reportedly including that which showed the faces of protesters who might have committed criminal offences.

During the trial last month, District Court judge Douglas Yau said Lam was trying to protect the man when he told him to allow protesters to check his phone. Lam was “putting out fires here and there,” Yau said.

The judge added that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the man had any incriminating footage.

While the government withdrew the extradition bill proposal in September 2019, the protests had by then ballooned into a wider movement against the Hong Kong and Beijing authorities, as well as alleged use of force by the Hong Kong Police Force.

The demonstrations died down amid Covid-19 in early 2020 and the implementation of Beijing’s national security law later that year.

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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.