A Hong Kong court has dismissed a legal bid by a teenager suing police over a controversial operation inside Prince Edward MTR station on August 31 last year to force the disclosure of the facility’s security footage and details of the incident.
The District Court instead granted the police’s civil litigation team access to the video for the purpose of handling the personal injury claim lodged by secondary school student Lee Ka-chun.
Lee has alleged an unknown officer hit him on the back of his head with a baton inside a train carriage, when he was caught in the middle of the police operation against anti-government protesters on the station’s lower platform floor at 10pm in one of the most controversial incidents of last year’s social unrest.
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The student who claimed he was merely passing by said the injury required 14 stitches in hospital.
Before the lawsuit goes to trial, Lee asked the court to order police to disclose 75 minutes of CCTV footage taken of the station’s lowest floor between 10.15pm and 11.30pm, as well as the identification of any officers who hit him. He is also seeking documents detailing the police operation.
Officers responsible for criminal investigation have obtained access to the footage under a warrant.
Inspector Mable Leung Mei-po, who is responsible for handling civil cases, said the force had no written record of officers using force against the complainant on the night in question.
District Court Judge Harold Leong Kwok-on dismissed Lee’s application on Friday on the grounds his lawyers had yet to serve the writ of the claim to the secretary for justice, acting on behalf of police.
Leong said the student was “jumping the gun” in making his requests before the other party could file a defence, adding it remained unclear whether the alleged assault had been captured by security cameras.
“The court will not entertain any ‘fishing exercise’,” Leong said. “The court is not in a position to grant a specific discovery order when there is no convincing evidence that any relevant document actually exists.”
However, the judge agreed it would be convenient to allow officers responsible for handling civil proceedings to access the MTR footage previously given to their criminal investigation colleagues, so they could locate the video relevant to Lee’s lawsuit, as well as identify frontline officers who might be involved.
The judge further declined Lee’s request for police information, saying there was no legal basis for his lawyers to pursue it further in the absence of CCTV evidence. The case will be heard again in the District Court on Monday.
Lee’s claim is one of several civil proceedings arising from the operation in which officers entered the station to arrest anti-government protesters.
The High Court ordered in March the MTR Corporation to disclose security footage from two stations – Prince Edward and Lai Chi Kok – to student leader Kex Leung Yiu-ting, who was contemplating legal action over the same incident.
But Leung’s lawyers sent a legal letter to the railway operator one month later, accusing it of releasing incomplete footage. The company has said some clips contained missing parts because some cameras were vandalised by protesters that night.