Hong Kong court jails US lawyer over scuffle with policeman

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) – A Hong Kong court has sentenced an American lawyer to prison over a scuffle with a plainclothes police officer in late 2019, a development that could raise concern in the foreign business community about Beijing tightening its grip on the Asian financial hub.

Samuel Bickett was handed a term of four months and two weeks on Tuesday (July 6) on one charge of assaulting a police officer.

The former Asia-Pacific compliance director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch was found guilty last month and denied bail.

Bickett, who said the officer was attacking people with a baton in a subway station, wrote in a statement before his conviction that the verdict was “entirely unsupportable by both the law and the evidence in this case”.

Many people in Hong Kong are concerned with the sweeping and vaguely worded national security law that Beijing imposed a year ago, and the jitters have only worsened as China revamped the election system and clamped down on media outlets.

A survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong in May found that more than 40 per cent of members said they might leave the city, with Singapore among the most popular alternatives.

Lawmakers in the United States expressed concern to President Joe Biden last week over what they called China’s “ceaseless assault” on democracy in the former British colony.

They asked Mr Biden in a letter what his administration was “doing to coordinate with allies and partners to ensure that the private sector” knows about the risk to US citizens and interests in Hong Kong posed by the national security law.

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