We have an update on Samuel Bickett, the corporate compliance officer jailed in Hong Kong on trumped-up charges that he assaulted a police officer. He is currently appealing his 18-week prison sentence, and spending the rest of his time helping other inmates he met during an early stint in Hong Kong’s maximum-security prison.
Bickett, you might recall, was sentenced in July on charges that he assaulted a plainclothes police officer in December 2019 while walking through a Hong Kong subway station. One problem with that case, however: the police officer was beating a teen-aged boy participating in pro-democracy protests, and never identified himself as a police officer despite others repeatedly asking whether he was.
Another problem with the case: the whole thing was captured on video. The evidence clearly shows that the officer, later identified as Yu Shu-Sang, just looked like some whacko beating a kid with a baton, and so Bickett disarmed him. See for yourself:
The man in blue sweater, Bickett Samuel Phillip, is an American & is charged with assault on police officer.
— Adam Young 😷 (@AdamYoungHK) December 9, 2019
Only after Bickett had subdued him did Yu identify himself as a police officer. Yu then claimed he was trying to arrest the teen for fare-jumping, and Bickett was charged with assaulting an officer.
Of course, evidence rarely matters in a dictatorship like China, and Hong Kong is now squarely under China’s thumb. So a city magistrate instead called Bickett’s actions “a serious threat to public order,” and sentenced him to 18 weeks.
Bickett has lived and worked in Hong Kong since 2012. He was regional director of anti-bribery compliance for Bank of America until May of this year, and held anti-corruption compliance roles at Deutsche Bank before that. We get rather protective of compliance professionals here at Radical Compliance, so we’ve been keeping an eye on his case as it unfolds.
So what is Bickett doing lately? According to a Washington Post article published over the weekend, Bickett spent a short time in July at Hong Kong’s Stanley Prison, a maximum-security facility. He was strip-searched, and taken in shackles to a detention center that housed numerous pro-democracy activists.
Once other inmates understood that Bickett was an experienced lawyer, they began asking him for help in their cases. As the Post describes it:
Soon, he was running a sort of pro bono legal service from behind bars, in some cases connecting inmates with people outside who could help with bail or other issues. Friends who visited Bickett said he would use 15-minute visitation slots to present them with a to-do list of inmates to help.
After several weeks at the detention facility and Stanley Prison, Bickett was released on bail pending appeal. He still lives in Hong Kong, preparing his own defense and helping other jailed political protestors as he can.
Alas, Bickett also told the Post that he fears for the fair resolution of his case, and for the rule of law in Hong Kong generally:
“I’ve committed my entire career to the law. I believe in the law,” Bickett said. “But that was utterly crushed by what happened to me and what I’ve seen happen to other people in this city.”
He’s not alone. Here’s hoping the Hong Kong judiciary either respects the rule of law (unlikely) or at least has the common sense to know imprisoning Bickett is more trouble than it’s worth and lets him go. The world needs more compliance officers like him.