Fight's not over for Hong Kong democracy activists

Nine Occupy Central defendants defiant despite facing jail for 2014 mass protest
Fight's not over for Hong Kong democracy activists

Sociologist Chan Kin-man (left), Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming (center), law professor Benny Tai (right) and other pro-democracy campaigners chant slogans as they enter court in Hong Kong on April 10 for defense pleas. (Photo by Anthony Wallace/AFP)

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
Hong Kong
April 11, 2019
Nine Hong Kong democracy activists have pledged to continue their fight after being found guilty of causing public nuisance during the mass Occupy Central protest in 2014.

Supporters cheered the defendants after a trial that critics said highlighted the decline of political freedom in the former British colony.

The movement’s three co-founders — law professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, retired sociologist Chan Kin-man and Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming — were each convicted on April 9 of conspiracy to cause public nuisance during the 79-day protest.

Chan and Tai were also found guilty of inciting others to cause public nuisance. All three were acquitted on a third charge of incitement to incite public nuisance.

Five of the remaining six leaders — lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, activist Raphael Wong Ho-ming and former student leaders Tommy Cheung Sau-yin and Eason Chung Yiu-wa — were each convicted of inciting others to cause public nuisance and inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance.

Former legislator Lee Wing-tat was convicted of one count of inciting others to cause public nuisance.

The defendants had pleaded not guilty to all charges, which each carry a maximum jail term of seven years. West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court adjourned sentencing to April 24.

While making a final plea to the court, Rev. Chu, 75, said he found himself in the most honorable pulpit of his ministerial career.

“I was already 70, often sick, physically unfit. But I could not ignore the cry of conscience. I could never allow my brothers to go it alone,” he said. “I am determined to fight for Hong Kong with one last effort and to walk with Hong Kong people one step further. We have no regrets ... we have not given up.”

Speaking before he entered court, Tai said: “No matter what happens, I am confident that many of us will continue to strive for democracy. We will persist and will not give up.”

Judge Johnny Chan wrote in a 268-page judgment that while Hong Kong courts recognized the notion of civil disobedience, it "is not a defense to a criminal charge."

"It is naive to suggest that a concession to introduce the form of universal suffrage advocated by the trio could be made by the government overnight with a click of fingers," he wrote.

The prosecutor stated that the action advocated by the founders of Occupy Central was illegal. Their selection of the central financial hub to launch the protest was carefully calculated to cause obstruction and harm.

The Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong (HKJP) published a prayer on April 10 to encourage the faithful to pray for the nine activists and their families.

HKJP officer Jackie Hung told ucanews.com that the trial had reminded everyone of the original intention of the movement. "It was to fight for democracy and universal suffrage,” she said.

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Hung was disappointed with the ruling and said the Hong Kong government had not responded to demands for political reform in recent years.

Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, said in a statement that it was "appallingly divisive to use anachronistic common law charges in a vengeful pursuit of political events which took place in 2014.”

A group of alumni of Chinese University of Hong Kong issued a joint statement to support former students Eason Chung and Tommy Cheung, saying that they were proud of what they had done and were deeply saddened by the conviction of so many defendants.

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