Did he claim to be a triad member or was he just asking about a CCTV camera?
A Filipino, who had been in and out of prison, got into trouble again only days after he was released from jail after he was accused of claiming to be a triad member.
Eastern Deputy Magistrate Peter Hui, however, dismissed the case against the defendant, with initials C.B., after he told the court that he actually said “Saan yung camera (Where’s the camera)?” instead of ‘Sun Yee On,’ the name of one of the leading triad societies in Hong Kong and mainland China.
The case started when C.B. urinated on the stairs of an apartment block in North Point on November 2 after he got drunk during a party to celebrate his release from prison.
Unknown to the Filipino, one of the tenants of the building had a CCTV camera installed outside his flat and it captured C.B.’s deed.
The following day, the tenant saw C.B. and his friends along Electric Road and confronted him.
“I went up to him and I asked, `Why did you urinate on the staircase?’ in Cantonese,” the tenant, surnamed Tang, told the court.
Also speaking in Cantonese, the defendant, a Hong Kong resident, at first denied doing it. But when Tang showed him the footage on his phone, the Filipino relented.
“He said, ‘Yes, it was urgent. That is why I urinated there’ in Cantonese,” Tang said. “After that, he said, `Don’t be so loud. I am Sun Yee On.’”
Claiming to be a triad member is a criminal offense in Hong Kong and it is punishable with a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment of up to three years on the first offense.
And so when he saw roving policemen, Tang informed them about what happened and had C.B. arrested.
But in his defense, the Filipino said he was actually asking his two friends if they saw where the CCTV camera was located.
“Saan yung camera (Where’s the camera?),” he claimed to have said in Tagalog to his friends during the incident after Tang confronted him.
Judge Hui ordered C.B. to speak in Cantonese in court to determine how fluent he was in his adopted language.
“The Cantonese he spoke was beyond recognition. I could hardly understand what he said until it was repeated 100 times,” the judge said.
“I suspect very strongly that defendant spoke like that intentionally to show that he could not speak Cantonese well,” he added.
The judge noted that while C.B. was born in the Philippines, he had finished schooling in Hong Kong, received a “fair” grade in his Chinese language classes, and stayed here “on and off” for 20 years.
“(So), how could he possibly speak Cantonese poorly? That led me to conclude that the defendant deliberately lied about his proficiency in spoken Cantonese,” the judge said.
Nevertheless, the judge decided to acquit C.B. because his question about the camera in Tagalog “sounds faintly” like “Sun Yee On.”
“And the question does fit into the context (of C.B.’s conversation with his friends)…. After a long and careful consideration, I can’t say that I’m satisfied the charge is proved beyond reasonable doubt,” Judge Hui said.
“I still have a little hesitation but I have to give you the benefit of the doubt. I find the defendant not guilty,” he added.
The magistrate admonished C.B. to change his life and stop misbehaving.
“You are very, very lucky today. You are so close to going back to prison. Don’t continue to misbehave outside. Actually, I don’t really believe you but your words caused me concern,” the judge said.
“I don’t think (a similar alibi) can be used again in the future,” he added.
The Filipino replied: Hindi na po mangyayari yun (That will not happen again, sir).