U.S. lawyer sentenced for assaulting police in Hong Kong

An American lawyer was sentenced to prison in Hong Kong on Tuesday (July 6) on charges of assaulting a plainclothes police officer during a pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong in 2019.

Samuel Phillip Bickett, 37, was ordered to serve four months and two weeks in prison on Tuesday after being convicted and denied bail last month. He has refused to plead guilty.

Hong Kong media reported that Magistrate Arthur Lam called Bickett’s actions a serious threat to public order, saying the police officer who was attacked suffered multiple injuries. He said the two-week sentence was added because the attack on the police occurred in a crowded area and Bickett’s actions could have incited others to violence.

On Dec. 7, 2019, Bickert, who is director of compliance at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, was on his way to dinner when he saw a man strike a teenager with a baton and stop to intervene. The assailant was an off-duty police officer. The officer, later identified as Yu Shu-sang, then got into an argument with other bystanders, and there is video showing that Yu had denied being a police officer at the time.

In his guilty verdict last month, Lim Hee Wee said Yu Shu-sang was not hiding his identity as a police officer, and that he could not be expected to admit he was a police officer at a time when the crowd was hostile to the police. He also said Bickert was not acting in self-defense, but was trying to take away the baton.

In a statement shared with The Washington Post before he was jailed, Bickert said the ruling against him was “outrageous” and a violation of judicial precedent. He said the former prosecutor in the case told his defense team that he was charged only because he had embarrassed the police. Bickert’s statement, seen by ABC, said he will appeal the “outrageous” guilty verdict until justice is served. He said the law and the evidence do not support a guilty verdict in this case at all.

Following Bickert’s sentencing, Radio Free Asia reported that a U.S. consular official told reporters that the U.S. consul in Hong Kong and Macau urged the Hong Kong government to safeguard the independence of the judiciary, avoid political interference in the judicial system and respect guarantees that all people can receive a fair trial.

Hong Kong saw a massive and sometimes violent “anti-revision” movement in 2019. In response, Beijing imposed a wide-ranging and vaguely worded national security law on the former British colony last year. It also introduced changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system. This sparked international condemnation of Beijing.