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U.S. lawyer says Hong Kong has deported him after police assault case

Samuel Bickett, who was convicted of assaulting a plainclothes officer, says he was immediately deported from the Chinese territory after his release from prison.
Samuel Bickett, a former corporate lawyer from the United States, poses during an interview, before the appeal  for allegedly assaulting a plain-clothes policeman during mass protests in 2019, in Hong Kong
Samuel Bickett, a former corporate lawyer from the United States, in Hong Kong last year, before his appeal for allegedly assaulting a plainclothes police officer during mass protests in 2019. Tyrone Siu / Reuters

HONG KONG — An American lawyer convicted last year of assaulting a police officer in Hong Kong said on Thursday that he has been deported from the Chinese territory after being released from prison.

The case dates to December 2019, when Samuel Bickett got into a scuffle in a subway station with a plainclothes officer who had forcibly stopped a teenager he accused of fare-dodging. Bickett maintains that the officer failed to identify himself properly, and that even if he had, he was using excessive force against the teenager.

At the time, the city had been roiled by months of sometimes violent antigovernment demonstrations, stoking tensions between protesters and police. In dismissing Bickett’s appeal in January, the judge repeatedly defended the officer’s actions, and said police must be protected given public hostility toward them.

At the time, Bickett, who had been out on bail pending appeal, was returned to Hong Kong’s Stanley Prison to serve the remainder of his sentence.

In a statement on Twitter on Wednesday, Bickett said he had been released the day before and was on a flight to Washington after a layover in Istanbul.

“The Immigration Department denied our request for me to be given a few days to wind up my affairs and say goodbye to my partner and loved ones, and I was instead taken immediately from prison to Immigration Detention, then escorted to a plane the same day,” Bickett said.

The Immigration Department said in a statement that it handles each case in accordance with the law and would not comment on individual cases.

Critics of Bickett’s conviction say his case reflects growing police impunity and highlights concerns about rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong, where there has been a crackdown on dissent since Beijing imposed a national security law in 2020.

Although he was not arrested in relation to any political activity, Bickett, a former compliance director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, has become a critic of the government and an advocate for jailed protesters.

“I have faith that one day I will be able to once again walk the streets of a Hong Kong ruled by law and governed with the consent of its people,” he said.