A Democratic Party lawmaker is likely to be jailed after he was found guilty of three charges in a phone-snatching incident at the Legislative Council last year, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Ted Hui Chi-fung, 36, who is also a member of Central and Western District Council, was charged with common assault, obstructing a public officer and accessing a computer with criminal or dishonest intent. He had pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The Eastern Magistrates’ Court heard earlier that Hui grabbed the mobile phone of a female Security Bureau official and ran away with it for a while in the Legco compound on April 24, 2018, when lawmakers were deliberating on the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link (Co-location) Bill.
Hui is said to have seized the phone in order to inspect its contents, as he suspected that the government official was recording the movements of lawmakers and violating their privacy, before he returned it later to another government official.
A day after the incident, Hui appeared before the media and acknowledged that he had behaved inappropriately by taking the phone away from the female official without her consent. He also offered an apology to the official.
In his ruling, Magistrate Cheng Lim-chi said that since the defendant was neither a law enforcement officer nor a Legco security guard, he had no right at all to conduct any act to enforce the law or collect evidence.
Cheng said Hui must have known it was dishonest to read and upload information in the phone he grabbed without consent, or he would not have afterwards deleted the information uploaded to his email box from the phone.
In addition, the judge also believed Hui had used a certain degree of force in the course of phone snatching, otherwise, he would not have been able to get the phone.
In mitigation, Hui admitted what he did on that day was wrong and beyond the social norm, and he had apologized to the official concerned.
He also said he hoped the punishment to be handed down by the court will not affect his participation in Legco’s deliberation of the extradition bill.
Hui’s lawyer also sought the court’s leniency, saying his client did not gain any money but only information in the case. He prayed that a community service order would suffice.
But Cheng said he doesn’t believe Hui was genuinely remorseful and therefore immediate imprisonment is a likely outcome.
He said the court should not give lawmakers or district councilors any privilege, even though being sentenced may affect their seats and participation in future elections.
The judge will hand down the sentence on June 10, pending a community service report.
Hui told media he would not make any comment regarding the case at this stage but said he and his lawyer would first study the ruling before deciding whether to lodge an appeal.
According to Article 79 of the Basic Law, the Legco president “shall declare that a member of the Council is no longer qualified for the office” when the member “is convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for one month or more for a criminal offense committed within or outside [Hong Kong] and is relieved of his or her duties by a motion passed by two-thirds of the members of the Legislative Council present”.
The lawmaker is also no longer qualified for the office when “he or she, with no valid reason, is absent from meetings for three consecutive months without the consent” of the Legco president.
Hui will also lose his seat in the Central and Western District Council and be banned from running for District Council and Legco elections in five years if he is sentenced to at least three months in jail, regardless of whether he is given a suspended sentence.
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