Macau | Police witnesses describe 2016 Sulu Sou paper plane letter protest as illegal and non-compliant; defense claims otherwise

Six police officers claim legislator Sulu Sou Ka Hou and political activist Scott Chiang led a non-compliant illegal protest in 2016 that ended in aggravated disobedience, as defense describes a pacific request to solely deliver a letter to the Chief Executive that complied with all police orders

Macau (MNA) Six Public Security Police (CPSP) officers were heard this Monday by the Court of First Appeal (TJB) in regard to the charges of aggravated public disobedience faced by legislator Sulu Sou Ka Hou and former New Macau Association (NMA) head of council, Scott Chiang.

The Prosecution witness statements claimed that Scott Chiang and Sulu Sou hadn’t followed the authorised route for a protest held on May 15 of 2016, later leading protesters to the Chief Executive residence to deliver a letter despite warnings they wouldn’t be allowed to do so.

The officers also stated that a group of protestors held an illegal meeting at the CE residence entrance, with the group allegedly disturbing traffic and disobeying orders by police to move away from the area.

Meanwhile, the defense team and the defendants argued that they cooperated with police, obeying orders and communicating their intent to solely deliver a letter to the CE residence.

The protest in question was held in response to a RMB100 million donation to Jinan University by the Macao Foundation, in which they claimed there was a perceived conflict of interest involving Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On holding roles in both entities.

NMA had requested authorisation from the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) to hold a protest parade starting in Vasco da Gama garden at 3:00pm, passing through Rua do Campo and Nam Vam Lake and then finishing at the Legislative Assembly square.

Police officers – including the chief officer responsible for the oversight of the protest – noted that protesters made an unauthorised change to the authorised route, stopping at the Nam Vam Lake Nautical Centre tent.

Meanwhile the defendants claimed they believed the AL square area was inadequate for the number of people in the protest, due to police barriers in the area, narrow sidewalks and the hot weather; with the tent area having also been requested as part of the official protest route.

The protest leaders claimed some 3,300 people were present at the beginning of the protest, while police officers reported some 800 people were present at the Nam Vam Lake area.

The leading police officer and a deputy officer claimed the defendants decided to finish the protest at the Nautical Centre spot and requested to deliver a letter demanding the CE’s resignation to the official residence.

According to the deputy officer surnamed Wang, a superior commissar was informed of the request, but responded that the residence wouldn’t receive letters, with such a request only being able to be handled by the government headquarters.

Both Sulu Sou and Scott Chiang claimed that after their request was rejected, they informed the protesters they intended to deliver the letter anyway, but deny police statements that they ordered protesters to move there with that intent.

CE residence palace

A mixed group

According to estimates from police officers, at that point a group of between 40 to 70 protesters moved to the CE residence, whose entrance at that time was blocked by barriers set up by the Police Tactical Intervention Unit (UTIP).

However, the defendants and their lawyers, Pedro Leal and Jorge Menezes, stated most of that group was composed of journalists or plain clothes policemen, with footage shown at court seeming to confirm this. One of the police witnesses stated that just from his department there were “six or seven” plainclothes officers.

The PSP Chief Officer claimed in court that the group “confronted police” in an aggressive manner and caused problems when arriving at the barriers, while the deputy officer described the group as “polite”.

At this point, police warned the protesters they couldn’t deliver the letters and that if they remained in the location they would be considered to be holding an illegal meeting, with the group then moving to a nearby sidewalk near Calcada das Chacaras street.

All police officers claimed that protesters were disturbing traffic in the area, and described this as one of the reasons why they considered that security in the area was being threatened.

However, several questions asked by defense lawyer Menezes to officers, enquiring if they had witnessed any traffic issues remained unanswered, leading the lawyer to even consider that the witnesses were being untruthful or avoiding the questions.

Paper planes attack

At this point of the protest, police officers claimed that Scott Chiang told protestors to turn the letters and pamphlets into paper planes and to throw them through the back wall of the CE residence, with the group moving to that area in response.

After protesters moved to that area and, realising they were going to throw the paper planes, the chief officer said he warned them this would be considered aggravated disobedience and asked them to leave.

However, while police officers said they were ignored with protesters taking a long time to move away from the area, the defense claims the defendants moved away in “32 seconds” as shown in video footage, and also disputed why a private citizen wouldn’t be able to deliver a letter to a residence post box.

Both defendants revealed this Monday they are currently also being inquired about several other accusations.

The trial continues this Tuesday at 9:30 am.