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Lawmakers slam Mugabe incident

HONG Kong lawmakers criticized the government yesterday for refusing to prosecute bodyguards for the family of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe after they allegedly manhandled two journalists.

The remarks followed the government's decision last month not to take legal action against security personnel accused of taking the journalists' cameras outside the Hong Kong residence of Mugabe's daughter.

The bodyguards were Zimbabwean police and intelligence officers responsible for the safety of Bona Mugabe, a Hong Kong legislative report said. The younger Mugabe is a student at the City University of Hong Kong.

The two journalists were on an assignment for The Sunday Times to follow-up on reports the Zimbabwean president owned the luxury property.

The incident was the second this year involving a Mugabe family member in Hong Kong. In a separate alleged attack in January, Mugabe's wife was granted immunity from prosecution after allegedly punching a British photographer near her luxury hotel.

Lacking evidence

Defending the government's decision yesterday not to file assault charges against Bona Mugabe's bodyguards, Hong Kong's justice secretary insisted there was not enough evidence to prosecute the bodyguards and maintained the two acted out of concern for Mugabe's safety.

"They felt that they could not take any possible chances with the safety of Miss Mugabe, and it was in that context that their actions needed to be viewed," Wong Yan-lung told a special legislative hearing.

Lawmakers, however, argued the government's decision was tantamount to giving bodyguards special privileges to assault others when protecting their clients.

"The decision gives rise to ambiguity that bodyguards could take action and injure ordinary citizens whenever they are carrying out security works," said lawmaker Albert Ho.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong police are still investigating whether the bodyguards had proper work permits for Hong Kong. Media had reported the two were on visitors visas, which wouldn't allow them to work in Hong Kong.


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