HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong court on Monday cleared a pro-democracy activist and former lawmaker of misconduct while in public office for allegedly failing to declare a HK$250,000 ($32,015) donation from a media tycoon.
Leung Kwok-hung, known as "long hair" for his signature hairstyle and affection for Che Guevara t-shirts, was disqualified as a lawmaker earlier this month for brandishing a yellow umbrella, a symbol of the mass pro-democracy street occupations in 2014, and truncating his oath during his swearing in.
Prosecutors had alleged that Leung received the donation from media tycoon Jimmy Lai in May 2012 and then concealed it from the Legislative Council (LegCo). Lai is the owner of the pro-democracy Next Media Ltd, which publishes the Apple Daily tabloid.
In a 77-page judgment, District Judge Alex Lee said the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
"I consider that the defendant's conduct is not without suspicion," Lee wrote in the judgment.
"However... I cannot be sure that the latter cashier order was for the defendant personally as a LegCo Member rather than a payment which he had received on LSD's behalf," he said, referring to the opposition party, the League of Social Democrats.
Opposition members in the Legislative Council face a series of legal battles that have already led to the expulsion of six democratically elected lawmakers from the legislature.
"The pan-democrats have been accused of receiving benefits and money from 'foreign forces' for a long time, which is not true," Leung said outside the court following the verdict.
Reporting by Jasper Ng and Venus Wu; Editing by Neil Fullick