American Lawyer Jailed For Breaking Up Fight During Hong Kong Protest

An American lawyer living in Hong Kong was charged with assaulting a police officer on Tuesday for intervening in an altercation he witnessed two years ago, adding to fears of increasingly tightening restrictions in the updated judicial system.

In 2019, corporate lawyer Samuel Bickett was reportedly on his way to dinner when he saw an off-duty officer in plain clothing hitting a man in the subway station with a baton, and went to intervene.

AFP reported that in 2019, the city of Hong Kong had been shaken by often violent democracy protests, resulting in the use of retractable batons that the near 30,000 police officers were allowed to carry during off-duty hours to protect them.

According to local reports, Senior Constable Yu Shu-sang was dressed in plain clothes and used his baton to stop someone from dodging the subway fare.

Bickett's defense team argued that the American lawyer had no idea Shu-sang was an officer but felt he was using excessive force and attempted to grab the baton away as Shu-sang beat a teenager.

According to the report and what can be seen in a video posted on Twitter, a man asked Shu-sang if he was police with the phrase "Are you popo?" to which Shu-sang initially denied, before later saying yes.

The man in blue sweater, Bickett Samuel Phillip, is an American & is charged with assault on police officer.

This footage shows that the man said "no" when asked "are you a popo?". He never showed his police officer ID. #HongKong #StandWithHongKong #HKPoliceBrutality

— Adam Young 😷 (@AdamYoungHK) December 9, 2019

The South China Morning Post reported that Magistrate Arthur Lam Hei-wei said that he found it "perfectly understandable" for Shu-sang to refuse to answer the question, as the term "popo" was a "disrespectful reference" to a police officer, used by protesters.

Shu-sang reportedly accused Bickett of dragging him onto the floor, kneeling on his chest, and punching him in the face while he tried to wrestle the baton out of his hand.

On December 7, 2019, Bickett was remanded and found guilty of assaulting an officer, and on Tuesday, he was convicted and denied bail ahead of his sentencing in July.

In a written statement reported by the South China Morning Post, Bickett said the verdict was outrageous and "entirely unsupportable by both the law and the evidence in this case".

"I will appeal this verdict, and I will not rest until justice is done," the statement added.

Hong Kong's judicial system, which answers to the ruling Communist Party, has seen an uptick in protesters arrested, to which they blame "meddlesome foreign countries." Reports stated that more than 10,000 people have been arrested since 2019.

Under a new national security law put in place in June of 2020, most people prosecuted are denied bails and face maximum sentences of life in prison.

A law professor at New York University and the faculty director of its U.S.-Asia Law Institute, Jerome Cohen, told The Washington Post that the atmosphere in Hong Kong has "increasingly infected" cases unrelated to the national security law.

"There seems to be dubious political influences over both," he added.

Newsweek reached out to Cohen for additional comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Police officers leave the Apple Daily newspaper offices in Hong Kong on June 17, 2021. An American lawyer was jailed and convicted of assaulting an officer on Tuesday after attempting to break up an altercation he witnessed in 2019. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images