U.S. lawyer loses appeal in Hong Kong police attack case


HONG KONG-- A Hong Kong court on Tuesday upheald the conviction of Samuel Bickett, an American corporate lawyer condemned last year of assaulting a plainclothes police officer in late 2019, when the Chinese area was roiled by antigovernment protests.

Bickett, 37, was returned to custody to serve the remainder of his jail sentence of 4 months and two weeks. He had currently served more than six weeks last year, before being released on bail in August while he appealed his case.

Bickett maintains that the officer failed  to identify himself effectively, and that even if he had, he was handing an unlawful assault when Bickett stepped in. In a declaration published to Twitter after the decision, he said he would appeal.

Critics of Bickett's conviction say his case shows growing police impunity and highlights concerns about guideline of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong in the middle of a crackdown on dissent.

According to Bickett, he was walking through a subway station on Dec. 7, 2019, when he saw a man, later on identified as senior police constable Yu Shu-sang, beating a teenager with a baton. Yu, who was off duty at the time, later stated the teenager had leapt over a gate without paying.Bickett, who affirmed that Yu had actually repeatedly stated he was not a law enforcement officer, said he attempted to take the baton away because he feared Yu might present a threat to others, resulting in a scuffle in between the two men before other authorities showed up.

In her decision on Tuesday, Judge Esther Toh of Hong Kong's High Court noted that the incident happened at the height of the 2019 unrest. Law enforcement officer both on and off duty went through verbal and physical attack, she stated, and off-duty officers had been issued the batons as a type of security.She turned down Bickett's arguments and disagreed that his sentence was extreme.

Although he was not detained in relation to any political activity, Bickett, a former compliance director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has ended up being a critic of the government and an advocate for imprisoned protesters.He has acquired support from the demonstration motion in return.

Unlike courts in the mainland, which are managed by the judgment Communist Party, the judicial system in Hong Kong, a former British nest, has long been defined by jury trials, a robust appeals process and the presumption of bail.

Those aspects have actually been deteriorated since 2020, when Beijing imposed a nationwide security law in response to the demonstrations, said Eric Lai, a Hong Kong law fellow at the Center for Asian Law at Georgetown University in Washington.

Hong Kong courts are now "more likely to function as maintaining law and order in support of the government's program to bring back order from the protests, and they have less worry about standard legal rights," he said in an interview.

That consists of revealing higher sympathy for law enforcement over protesters and ordinary citizens, Lai stated.Government officials state the national security law was necessary to restore stability after the protests, which greatly unsettled the worldwide financial center. But the law has also raised new concerns about Hong Kong's future as a location to do business.

In discuss Reddit in September, Bickett alerted that foreigners in Hong Kong could be targeted under the law, which is broadly composed and criminalizes terrorism, subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces. An advisory from the Biden administration in July also said that U.S. business could be negatively affected by the changing legal landscape.

"The United States has joined many nations around the world in expressing serious issue of the disintegration of human rights and basic freedoms of Hong Kong," Devin Kennington, chief of American Citizen Services at the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong, said in a statement after Bickett's conviction was upheld.

In a speech last month, Chief Justice Andrew Cheung acknowledged the issues however protected the court system as impartial."Judicial self-reliance in Hong Kong exists as a reality," he stated.In his declaration, Bickett stated his case recommended otherwise."Today's judgment is just the most recent indicator that the judiciary's reputation for applying the law reasonably, fairly and equally remains in danger," Bickett said.

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