A Hong Kong protester who was jailed for over five years after he bit off a police officer’s finger during a protest in 2019 has had his bid to challenge the conviction rejected.

High Court.
High Court. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

To Kai-wa, now 26, was previously found guilty of behaving in a disorderly manner in a public place, assaulting a police officer, inflicting grievous bodily harm and wounding with intent. He was jailed for a total of 5.5 years.

To’s bid to challenge his conviction on the latter two charges was heard by Judge Anthea Pang at the Court of Appeal on Thursday.

He had bitten off an officer’s ring finger and broken the finger of another police officer with an umbrella before his arrest during a protest at Sha Tin New Town Plaza on July 14, 2019

According to local media, Robert Pang, the senior counsel representing To, said the original judge Johnny Chan had “misinterpreted” the defence’s argument.

He said the defence had raised the possibility that the bite was an involuntary reflex action, rather than saying that the defendant lost consciousness.

14 july sha tin china extradtiion new town plaza mall (11)
Police deployed to the New Town Plaza on July 14, 2019. File photo: May James.

However, Judge Pang said the report by the defence’s expert witness at the earlier hearing relied solely on video footage of the incident, as the defendant himself made no statement.

“As the defendant did not give any evidence in court, or say his actions were involuntary, legally speaking, should the court accept the submitted expert report?” Judge Pang asked.

Object in mouth

Barrister Robert Pang said that even if To had bitten voluntarily, it still did not mean he necessarily intended to hurt the police officer. At the time, he was being held down and dragged backward by three to four officers, who also pressed down on his head and face.

The counsel questioned whether To, who was wearing a facemask, could have realised that the object in his mouth was an officer’s finger.

But the judge asked why To had to bite down if he did not know what was in his mouth. “If someone put anything in your mouth, will you bite it at once no matter what?” she asked.

Madam Justice Anthea Pang
Madam Justice Anthea Pang. File photo: GovHK.

Robert Pang said the prosecution could not prove To specifically intended to inflict grievous bodily harm. He hoped the court could sentence him on a lesser charge.

As for the second charge of assault with an umbrella, the barrister argued that the original judge had given too much consideration to recovery time when ruling that the injured policeman suffered a “grievous harm.”

However, Judge Pang said mental harm was also taken into account. She refused to grant leave to appeal, saying there were no reasonable grounds for argument.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.