A former opposition lawmaker detained for allegedly breaking the national security law has been jailed for nine weeks in a separate case related to an anti-government protest in Hong Kong more than a year ago, after an appeal court toughened his sentence at the request of prosecutors.
The Court of Appeal on Tuesday rescinded the community service order imposed on Au Nok-hin, who was convicted last year of assaulting two policemen with a loudhailer in the summer of 2019, when a doomed extradition bill triggered a wave of demonstrations in the city.
Chief Justice of the High Court Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor said the original punishment was “manifestly inadequate” in reflecting the seriousness of assaulting police officers. Two other judges presiding at the hearing also cast doubt on whether Au was truly remorseful.
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The 33-year-old former politician will serve the jail term while waiting for the next hearing of the security law case. He is among 47 opposition figures facing subversion charges over an unofficial primary for the legislative polls last summer, and one of 36 denied bail.
The ruling came just two months after Au failed in a bid to overturn his conviction on two counts of assaulting police officers at the Court of First Instance.
The appeal centred on a chaotic stand-off between protesters and police in Mong Kok in the early hours of July 8, 2019, which followed a rally on the previous day. Au was said to have attacked Constable Kwan Chi-ho by knocking on his shield using a microphone connected to the loudspeaker, before shouting at Superintendent Ko Chun-pong through the device and damaging his hearing in the right ear. Au said he merely wished to talk to the officers about giving protesters time to leave the scene.
Au was spared jail at Kowloon City Court last April, with Magistrate Leung Ka-kie accepting the recommendation of the probation officer and ordering the defendant to serve 140 hours of community work.
He saw his conviction upheld in January by Madam Justice Maggie Poon Man-kay, who maintained the former lawmaker was hostile towards the officers by calling them “rogue cops” and “Yi Jin boys” – a reference to a diploma programme used to mock a person’s academic qualifications.
Writing on Facebook after losing the appeal, Au said: “Litigation has become meaningless. Unless I was jailed upon a sentence review by the Department of Justice, I will not appeal.”
Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Ira Lui Tsz-ming told the Court of Appeal that not only should Au be convicted, he deserved to go to prison for attacks he was not truly sorry about.
The prosecutor cited Au’s mitigation letter to the magistrate, in which he said he regretted directing verbal abuses at the officers that night and causing his family to worry.
“He did not say sorry for calling the officers ‘rogue cops’ and ‘Yi Jin boys’,” Lui said. “He did not really at any stage apologise for his battery of police.”
That submission was accepted by Madam Justice Anthea Pang Po-kam, one of three judges at the hearing. She added: “His apology for his speeches is a completely different matter from an apology for the offence itself.”
Mr Justice Derek Pang Wai-cheong, meanwhile, questioned whether Au had genuinely intended to have a conversation with the two officers he attacked, pointing out he had previously snubbed warnings to return to pedestrian walkways.
The three judges set a sentencing starting point of three months in jail, before trimming the term to nine weeks after learning Au had completed 105 hours of community service before the hearing.