Four of nine Occupy leaders jailed for up to 16 months over roles in HK’s 2014 umbrella movement

25-Apr-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:18 AM Print This Post

Four of the nine democracy leaders found guilty over Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy protests were jailed for up to 16 months on Wednesday for their roles in the biggest civil disobedience movement in the city’s history.

Two founders, academics Benny Tai Yiu-ting, 54, and Dr Chan Kin-man, 60, received the longest jail terms, at 16 months. Imprisoned for eight months were legislator Shiu Ka-chun, 49, and League of Social Democrats vice-chair Raphael Wong Ho-ming, 30.

Because of poor health and his years of contribution to society, Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, 75, the third founder, had a 16-month sentence suspended for two years.

Former lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, 63, also had his eight-month term suspended for two years in light of his years of service.

Former student leaders Tommy Cheung Sau-yin, 25, and Eason Chung Yiu-wa, 26, were sentenced to 200 hours of community service and eight months’ jail respectively, but Chung also had his prison term suspended. Their ages were taken into consideration.

All were sentenced by Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng at West Kowloon Court. The judge criticised the nine for putting their political demands before the lives of “ordinary folks”.

Lawmaker Tanya Chan, 47, had her sentencing adjourned after it was revealed she was suffering from a life-threatening condition and would have to undergo brain surgery in two weeks.

The group were convicted of a string of public nuisance charges earlier this month over the 79-day civil disobedience movement, which brought the city’s commercial district to a standstill in the name of greater democracy for Hong Kong.

The judge noted the protests had been non-violent, with a goal not motivated by “greed, lust, anger, or monetary reward”. Nonetheless, he said, the obstruction was a serious one that lasted for an extensive amount of time.

“The nine lived up to their aspirations, but they failed to take notice of the ordinary folks travelling to work,” he said, describing their campaign as “contorted”.

Although Tai had recounted “touching moments” from the protests in court during a speech, the other side of the story was that the activists had brought excessive delays and inconvenience to the city, the judge added.

Until now, he said, the group had not expressed any regret.

“By regret, I do not mean they should give up their political beliefs and demands,” he said. “It is an apology the community rightly deserved from the defendants, but one they never received.”

For the first time, Chu on Wednesday walked out of the dock without his two closest allies, Tai and Chan Kin-man. He burst into tears.

“In the past five years, we have never been apart,” he said, before leaving court. “Today, they were sentenced to jail. I’m in immense sorrow. I am truly willing to go with them.”

League of Social Democrats vice-chair Wong thanked the judge from the dock and vowed to soldier on with his pursuit of democracy as cheers erupted from supporters in the public gallery. Judge Chan returned a smile.

Chan Kin-man, Tai, Wong and Shiu were later taken to Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre.

Barrister Steven Kwan Man-wai, representing the three founders, said Chan and Tai would appeal against their sentences. Lawmaker Shiu also confirmed he would appeal, against both his conviction and sentence, according to his lawyer Robert Pang Yiu-hung. His term will render him unable to report for duty at the Legislative Council for more than three months. This could lead to his dismissal from office by the Legco president. He could also be stripped of his title, as legislators jailed for more than a month can be removed if more than two-thirds of the chamber vote against them although this would be unlikely.

Pang said he was disappointed by the sentences. “There were many other options,” the barrister said.

The protests, which began on September 28, 2014, were sparked by frustration with a restrictive framework Beijing had laid down for the election of Hong Kong’s leader.

Democracy activists had been expecting to elect a chief executive through a one-person, one-vote system, but were outraged that they would have to settle for a pool of preselected candidates.

A little more than a month after Beijing’s ruling, protesters poured into Admiralty, Wan Chai and Central, blocking major thoroughfares in the heart of the city. Police fired tear gas but failed to disperse them.

The nine were found guilty of a range of public nuisance charges on April 9 following an 18-day trial that revisited the civil disobedience movement through testimony from police officers, footage and the words of those who took part.

Judge Chan called the protest plan unrealistic, saying it was naive to think “a concession to introduce the form of universal suffrage advocated by the founding trio could be made by the government overnight with a click of its fingers”.

During mitigation, Chan Kin-man, Tai and Wong urged the judge not to jail Reverend Chu, citing worries for his health.

On Wednesday, Judge Chan accepted that request, saying he was “impressed and touched” by Chu’s more than 30 years of service helping drug addicts and HIV patients.

“I am also concerned about his age,” he said.

The judge also acknowledged former lawmaker Lee’s track record of serving Hong Kong, saying it was time for the court to recognise those contributions.

Ex-student leaders Cheung and Chung were still young and lacked life experience, Chan said as he spared them jail.

As for the rest, the judge said they could only be punished with an immediate custodial sentence but he shortened their sentences by a month to two months after considering their good characters. Wong however did receive this leniency.

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor declined to comment on the sentencing but insisted the case did not undermine freedom of expression or the right to demonstrate.

“I don’t see any of these effects, or any of these activities being affected,” Lam said.

She refused to comment on whether there would be further prosecutions against Occupy protesters, saying it was a decision for police and prosecutors.

But Maya Wang, a senior researcher on China for Human Rights Watch, said the long sentences would have a chilling effect.

“The ‘umbrella nine’ did nothing but peacefully press the Hong Kong government to fulfil its obligation to deliver genuine democracy to people in the territory, and they should not have been prosecuted in the first place,” she said.

What is more naive than believing in ‘one country, two systems’?

Chan Kin-man

The sentencing session began with more than 100 people with yellow umbrellas the symbol of the movement awaiting the arrival of the nine on the ground floor of the court building. Some wore yellow shirts with the words “I was not incited”, in defiance of court findings that the group had incited others to block roads in 2014.

Speaking before walking into court, Chan Kin-man said the group would only discuss appeals after the sentencing.

“In the verdict, the judge commented that we were naive believing that by having an Occupy movement, we could attain democracy,” Chan said.

“But what is more naive than believing in ‘one country, two systems’?”

He was referring to the policy under which Hong Kong has been granted a high degree of autonomy by Beijing since 1997.

Tai said he felt “peaceful and hopeful” before learning of his fate. Chu urged democracy activists in Hong Kong not to give up even if the nine were all jailed. The group walked into court surrounded by supporters, who chanted: “We want genuine universal suffrage.” Tai and Shiu said prayers and sang hymns with a small group, before joining other leaders to address journalists. They received rounds of thunderous applause when they eventually turned up on the fourth floor outside the courtroom for the sentencing.

Security measures were stepped up as scores of pro-Beijing protesters also gathered outside the court building, chanting through loudspeakers: “You have to pay for occupying Central.”


Category: Hong Kong

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