Left Menu
Development News Edition

UPDATE 4-Hong Kong 'Occupy' protest leaders deny public nuisance charges


Three leaders of Hong Kong's 2014 pro-democracy "Occupy" movement, which paralysed parts of the Chinese-ruled city for nearly three months, denied public nuisance charges on Monday as international criticism of the erosion of civil liberties grows.

Law professor Benny Tai, 54, retired sociologist Chan Kin-man, 59, and retired pastor Chu Yiu-ming, 74, face charges of conspiracy and incitement to commit public nuisance, and incitement to incite public nuisance.

The closely watched trial illustrates the tensions in the former British colony as disaffected democracy activists push back against attempts by Communist Party leaders in Beijing to tighten their grip on the city's freedoms and autonomy.

Each charge carries a maximum jail term of seven years. Six others, including two lawmakers, are also facing public nuisance charges in a trial that is expected to last around 20 days.

In a show of defiance, the nine defendants and more than 100 supporters unfurled yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the movement, outside the court, clapping and demanding an end to "political prosecution".

"A movement can be crushed but not defeated," the nine said in a joint statement. "These charges enable the government to abuse the power of prosecution and infringe on the freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. The nine defendants unanimously decided not to plead guilty."

Tai told Reuters he hoped the trial would be an opportunity to "reboot the spirit of the people".

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula, with the guarantee of a high degree of autonomy and freedoms denied citizens in mainland China, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.

However, critics, including foreign governments, business groups and activists, say that the guarantee is ringing increasingly hollow.

'UNLAWFUL' OCCUPATIONS

The court heard how in 2013, Tai, Chan and Chu began promulgating and planning a non-violent civil disobedience campaign to occupy streets in the Central business district should China not allow a democratic vote for its next leader.

The "Occupy" campaign germinated in September 2014, ahead of schedule, and became part of what grew into the biggest populist challenge to Beijing since the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in Beijing in 1989.

Hundreds of thousands of people, including many youngsters and students, took to the streets in sustained occupation of major streets.

Government prosecutor Andrew Bruce detailed in court how the three "Occupy" leaders had given speeches and interviews urging more people to join the "unlawful occupations".

He said this had been a "joint enterprise" to conspire with others to try to fuel the movement for a "prolonged and indefinite" time.

Lawyers for the defendants, however, questioned the basis for this allegation.

The six other defendants are veteran democratic party member Lee Wing-tat, democratic lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, activist Raphael Wong and former student leaders Eason Chung and Tommy Cheung.

"Even if the court finds us guilty, history will show that we committed no crime," Cheung, now a columnist, told reporters.

Some critics say the case could have repercussions for hundreds of other protesters who have not been charged, and create a chilling effect on the Hong Kong democracy movement.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission warned in a report to Congress last week that China had "ramped up its interference" in Hong Kong and had "closed down the political space for pro-democracy activists to express discontent".

Authorities have banned a political party advocating Hong Kong independence, barred democracy activists from contesting local elections and disqualified six opposition lawmakers from the legislature.

A senior Financial Times journalist, Victor Mallet, was barred from the city this month after he helped host an independence activist at the Foreign Correspondents' Club in what critics said was an attack on freedom of speech.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has repeatedly stressed Hong Kong respects media and other freedoms but has so far refused to give an explanation for denying Mallet entry. (Reporting by James Pomfret Editing by Paul Tait and Nick Macfie)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Download The Devdiscourse News App for Latest News.


TRENDING

OPINION/BLOG/INTERVIEW

Top 10 Fake News, Myths and Realities on 2019 Novel Coronavirus COVID 19

With nearly 1500 deaths by January 14 and around 65,000 infections in China, the Novel Coronavirus 2019 has become one of the worst health epidemics of the 21st Century. However, 8,573 people have been cured but the rumor mongers are a...

Handling fake news Infodemic in time of Coronavirus epidemic

Social media has provided a platform where everybody can disseminate his her views without any supervision. Its excellent if the message is genuine but misinformation is equally disastrous. Health is such a topic where every Tom and Harry c...

Sentiment Analysis on Budget 2020: Long shot for solution to economic worries?

Industries and individuals alike had high expectations from the government to take tangible steps but the budget 2020 seems to have failed expectations....

How can technology help the future of mobility?

More than a billion people or one-third of the global rural population lacked access to all-season roads and transport services in 2016, subsequently hindering the socio-economic development....

Videos

Latest News

Cricket-Smith happy to be back in S Africa for first time since Sandpapergate

Australia batsman Steve Smith says his reception in South Africa has been lovely on his first tour since the infamous Sandpapergate scandal, but expects that to change when he steps onto The Wanderers on Friday.Australia take on hosts South...

Match-fixing: Never gave assurance to UK authorities of no further investigation, MHA tells HC

The Delhi High Court was informed by the home ministry on Wednesday it never gave any assurance to the UK authorities that no further investigation will be carried out in the case related to Sanjeev Chawla, alleged bookie and key accused in...

Independent cinema is celebrated today: producer Guneet Monga

Oscar-winning producer Guneet Monga says she is happy that independent cinema is celebrated today. Monga, who is the founder of Sikhya Entertainment, a boutique film production house, has films such as Gangs of Wasseypur, Peddlers, The Lunc...

Entertainment News Roundup: Singer Lewis Capaldi wins big at BRIT awards; Parasite' did not want to sugarcoat inequality and more

Following is a summary of current entertainment news briefs.Movie magic Spanish tinned crisp sales boom on Korean film cameoCesar Bonilla is still baffled by a surge in demand for the canned potato chips made by his company in northwestern ...

Give Feedback