American lawyer freed — Radio Free Asia
US lawyer Samuel Phillip Bickett, who was jailed in July last year for assaulting a police officer during Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protests, returned home to the US on Thursday after being released from jail earlier earlier this week and deported by the authorities. Bickett was released on bail in August after six weeks behind bars, but was ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence after the city’s High Court rejected an appeal against his conviction in February. He spoke with RFA’s Mandarin Service about his ordeal and why he plans to complete his appeals process in Hong Kong, despite the likelihood of his conviction being upheld.
RFA: Can you describe your darkest moments during this case and what helped you get out of it?
Bickett: I guess my darkest moment was during my sentencing on June 22, 2021, which was an absolute shock. I mean, at that point, me, my lawyers, the media, everybody kind of assumed – and there’s a video of my case showing very clearly that I did nothing wrong – that there was no way this guy would condemn me. And then he did, and he read a series of facts that were absolutely made up. I mean, they came out of nowhere. He described something that did not exist. And I was in shock for a few days.
The first weeks of [jail] were very, very difficult. And really, what helped me was… my visits that I could get from friends and family, and then… a lot of letters from strangers just trying to support me and remind me that everything was fine and that I had done the right thing and it wasn’t my fault… And I think for a lot of Hongkongers that really represented how [the authorities] had fallen and how tragic it was for the city and not just for, you know, me individually. So I was getting a lot of letters about this, and it was really, really helpful to see and helped me understand a lot of the situation here.
RFA: Do you think there is still hope for Hong Kong’s judicial system in the face of pressure from Beijing?
Bickett: I no longer have any illusions that there is a functioning system of rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong. I mean, it’s very clearly gone. That said… I always appeal. I always dispute things because I think at the very least we will try to go all the way to court for a final appeal. And I have very little hope of success there, but I want them to publicly state that they’re doing the same thing that those lower courts did and basically abandoning the law and making everyone understand that they’re doing it. did.
So far, the Court of Appeal has managed to stick its head in the sand and ignore the fact that its lower courts are rampantly abusing their power and committing all sorts of abuses of process and perversions of justice under their noses. And this must stop. The Court of Final Appeal has ultimate responsibility for the entire justice system and the Chief Justice has ultimate responsibility for the judges in his charge, and I intend to do everything I can to m ensure they are registered, either by trying to fix some of the problems – which I don’t think they will – or to match the criminality of their lower courts.
RFA: Now that you’re home and you’ve gone through this ordeal, what are your plans?
Bickett: The next step is to spend time with my family and, probably based on my six-year-old nephew who lives here, probably building a lot of Lego sets… Over those two years I’ve developed a bond with some of them. the Hong Kong community and the wider human rights community here in Washington, New York and London. And my hope is to meet and hear from a lot of these people so that I can really understand where I could be of help and continue this fight.