Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - HK democracy campaigners plead not guilty



HK democracy campaigners plead not guilty

HK democracy campaigners plead not guilty

Three leading Hong Kong democracy campaigners pleaded not guilty on Monday to public nuisance charges over their involvement in massive rallies calling for political reform, as room for opposition in the semi-autonomous city shrinks under an assertive China.

The pioneering trio are among nine activists all facing “public nuisance” charges for their participation in the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests.

The charges are based on colonial-era law and carry jail terms of up to seven years.

Sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 59, law professor Benny Tai, 54, and Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, 74, founded the Occupy Central movement in 2013 and joined with the student-led Umbrella Movement which brought parts of the city to a standstill for months, calling for free elections for the city’s leader.

The activists were welcomed outside court by hundreds of supporters shouting: “Peaceful resistance! I wanted real universal suffrage!”

Prosecutor Andrew Bruce argued that the mass protests had caused a “common injury done to the public”, who had been affected by the blockage of major roads.

He accused the trio of taking part in and supporting the demonstration “by way of unlawful obstruction of public places and roads”.

Occupy Central called for the occupation of Hong Kong’s business district if the public was not given a fair vote for the city’s leader, who is appointed by a pro-Beijing committee.

It was overtaken by the student movement that exploded in September 2014 when police fired tear gas on gathering crowds.

The Occupy trio urged people to join what became known as the Umbrella Movement as protesters used umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas and pepper spray.

The movement failed to win reform and since then activists have been prosecuted, with some jailed.

Professor Chan gave a farewell talk on Wednesday night to a full house of more than 600 people at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he has been teaching for over two decades.

“So long as we are not crushed by imprisonment and trial and do not become overly frustrated and angry, then we will become stronger and we can inspire many more people,” he told the audience, announcing his early retirement from next year. “Only in the darkest hours, we can see the stars.”

Chu, who has been unwell but attended Chan’s talk, said the trio had “prepared to walk on this path”.

“We were always willing to be sacrificed in order to wake up the people,” Chu said.

The trial at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court is expected to last 20 days.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants