HK protests: opposition activists face stiffer sentences if found guilty after prosecutors up charges

19-May-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Five leading opposition figures in Hong Kong were set to face tougher charges when they joined 10 others in court on Monday afternoon in connection with last year’s anti-government protests.

Former pro-democracy lawmakers Albert Ho Chun-yan, Lee Cheuk-yan, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Cyd Ho Sau-lan and activist Figo Chan Ho-wun face the extra charge of “incitement to knowingly take part in an unauthorised assembly” at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court.

If convicted on that charge, the five could spend longer behind bars.

Last month’s high-profile arrests of the 15, which also includes media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and Democratic Party founding chair Martin Lee Chu-ming, were seen by some as authorities hardening their stance against the opposition camp. Other observers said police were only following the law.

Protesters march through Causeway Bay on New Year’s Day. Photo: Sam Tsang

Protesters march through Causeway Bay on New Year’s Day. Photo: Sam Tsang

The British Foreign Office, the European Union, and United Nations human rights experts have all expressed concern over the arrests, related to a series of marches that took place on August 18, October 1 and October 20.

Among the charges the group faces are organising an unauthorised assembly, and knowingly taking part in an unauthorised assembly, which carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Previously, Albert Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung, Cyd Ho and Figo Chan were told by police they would face a charge of making an announcement of an unauthorised public procession, an offence that carries a sentence of up to 12 months, over the protests in October.

The incitement charge they face carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Apart from Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai, the 10 others include incumbent lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung, ex-legislators Sin Chung-kai, Yeung Sum, Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, Au Nok-hin, and activists Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, Raphael Wong Ho-ming and Avery Ng Man-yuen.

The defendants arrived at the court building known for its spacious setting which can accommodate more spectators than other courts one by one an hour before the hearing began.

Supporters of Martin Lee formed a human chain to protect the 81-year-old as he threaded through a crowd of journalists surrounding him. Members of the Democratic Party, whose three former chairmen, including Lee, faced prosecution, chanted: “Protect citizens’ rights. The freedom to assemble and march.”

“Down with Jimmy Lai,” chanted a score of pro-establishment supporters when the media boss arrived. Lai did not make a speech.

Police warned that those at the scene could breach social-distancing rules, in place to check the spread of Covid-19, but no action was taken.

Speaking before the court proceedings, Lee Cheuk-yan asserted that “the root of the disturbance” was Beijing and the city’s leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor undermining freedoms in Hong Kong.

“What is on trial here is the human rights of Hong Kong. We are all on trial,” his co-defendant Leung Kwok-hung added.

Among the crowd of supporters were Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, lawmaker Tanya Chan and the three co-founders of the pro-democracy Occupy protests of 2014 Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Reverend Chu Yiu-ming and Chan Kin-man, who were all convicted last year of public nuisance at the same court.

Their cases were expected to be transferred to the District Court.

A wave of anti-government protests swept through Hong Kong last year, sparked in June by the government’s unpopular extradition bill.

But that morphed into wider social unrest, with radicals regularly clashing with police in the city’s streets.



Category: Hong Kong

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