Hong Konger who bit off activist's ear sentenced to 15 years in jail

Andrew Chiu had part of his left ear bitten off when he tried to restrain Joe Chen in 2019. PHOTOS: MUGISALTY/TWITTER

HONG KONG (AFP) - A Hong Kong man was jailed for nearly 15 years on Tuesday (April 19) after biting off the ear of a democracy activist and attacking three others at the height of the city's protests in 2019.

The prison term for Joe Chen, who shouted Chinese nationalist slogans before his attack, is the longest of those charged in relation to the city's social turmoil three years ago.

High Court judge Judianna Barnes on Tuesday said Chen's biting off part of the ear of democracy activist Andrew Chiu was "very barbaric" and defied belief.

In December, a jury found Chen guilty of three counts of wounding with intent - an offence punishable by up to life imprisonment - and one count of common assault.

The court earlier heard that Chen, 52, shouted "Reclaim Taiwan" outside a shopping mall in Taikoo Shing, a middle-class neighbourhood, in November 2019.

Communist China views self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.

Nationalists fervently want the democratic self-ruled island to be "returned" to the mainland either by choice or force - something the vast majority of Taiwanese do not want.

Chen attacked a man and two women with a knife when they confronted him, leaving the man in critical condition.

Chiu, a democracy activist and district councillor, had part of his left ear bitten off when he tried to restrain Chen.

Defence lawyers previously argued that Chen had consumed alcohol before the attack, and that he had suffered from chronic mental health issues stemming from his unemployment.

In a letter to the court, Chen's wife claimed that her husband had never raised his hand against her in 30 years together.

But judge Barnes questioned the accuracy of her claims, citing a medical report that said Chen's wife once woke up to see her husband pointing a knife at her throat.

At the time, Chen was institutionalised after his wife called the police, which showed that he had violent tendencies, the judge added.

An earlier civil claim between Chen and the four victims had been settled, with Chiu compensated HK$1.9 million (S$330,000).

After the attack, Chen was surrounded by large crowds that included demonstrators from nearby protest sites.

Six men were charged with rioting after they beat up Chen in retaliation, with authorities accusing them of "vigilante justice".

Chiu is one of dozens of prominent activists in jail awaiting prosecution under a new national security law over their role in the city's now crushed democracy movement.

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