Samuel Bickett, 37, was ordered to serve four months and two weeks behind bars after being convicted and denied bail last month.
The former compliance director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch was on his way to dinner in late 2019 when he saw a man hitting a teenager with a baton and stopped to intervene. The assailant turned out to be an off-duty policeman. An altercation between the man, identified later as Yu Shu-sang, and other bystanders ensued.
Mr Yu repeatedly said he was not a police officer. Footage shows him later lunge at Bickett with his baton in his right hand, before he falls over a railing. Bickett then attempts to wrestle his baton away.
In Tuesday’s sentencing, Magistrate Arthur Lam called Bickett’s acts “a serious threat to public order,” citing multiple injuries suffered by the police officer. As the assault happened in a “crowded area,” Bickett’s actions could have affected others’ emotions and “incited a bigger conflict,” he said.
In his verdict last month, Mr Lam said the officer was not concealing his identity and could not have been expected to respond as the crowd was disrespectfully asking him if he was “popo” - a slang term for the police. Bickett, Mr Lam said, was not acting in self-defense but simply wanted to snatch the baton.
In a statement shared with The Washington Post before he was jailed, Bickett said the verdict was “outrageous” and a violation of legal precedent. The former prosecutor in his case, he added, told his defence team that charges were pursued because Bickett had embarrassed the police.
Unrest flared in Hong Kong in June 2019, prompted by an extradition bill that residents feared would remove the firewall between the city’s courts, based on English common law, and China’s judicial system, which answers to the ruling Communist Party. Beijing has characterized the spontaneous protests as the work of meddlesome foreign countries.
In response, the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities moved to curb the city’s freedoms, most notably through a national security law imposed last year, an overhaul of the electoral system, and the freezing of assets belonging to pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, which led to its shutdown.
Since the protests, more than 10,000 people have been arrested. About a quarter have been charged and 780 convicted, police data show.
Authorities have continued to crack down since passage of the security law last summer. On Monday, police arrested nine more people, six of them high school students, over what they said was an alleged terrorist bomb plot. The nine allegedly belong to a pro-independence group that planned to attack Hong Kong’s courts, railways and streets with explosives this month, according to the police.
“[Police] hope parents can pay more attention to who the friends of your children are, and whether your children have been used or instigated to commit criminal acts or even terrorist acts,” Senior Superintendent Li Kwai-wah told reporters Tuesday.
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