HK’s High Court upholds trio’s convictions over 2016 protest against Beijing decision to interpret Basic Law in oath-taking case

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

Three Hong Kong activists charged for their roles in a 2016 protest against Beijing’s decision to interpret the city’s mini-constitution in a high-profile political case have lost an appeal against their convictions.

The High Court on Thursday dismissed the appeal lodged by Avery Ng Man-yuen, 43, of the League of Social Democrats, against two counts of inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly outside the central government’s liaison office on November 6, 2016.

Hong Kong police pepper spray a crowd of protesters at an unlawful assembly outside Beijing’s liaison office on November 6, 2016. Photo: Paul Yeung

Hong Kong police pepper spray a crowd of protesters at an unlawful assembly outside Beijing’s liaison office on November 6, 2016. Photo: Paul Yeung

The court also rejected similar applications by co-defendants Dickson Chau Ka-faat, 28, and Cheng Pui-lun, 25, who were convicted of obstructing police officers and taking part in an unlawful assembly, respectively.

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The trio was among a group of eight activists found guilty of 10 public order offences for protesting outside the liaison office in Sai Wan after Beijing said it would step in and interpret the Basic Law as it related to the improper oath-taking of two localist lawmakers.

A day after the protest, China’s top legislative body delivered its interpretation, ruling that public officials must take their oaths “sincerely” and “solemnly” or face disqualification. Six opposition legislators were eventually ousted from the Legislative Council.

Ng was said to have climbed over water-filled barriers and provoked other protesters to charge the police cordon in a bid to get closer to the liaison office. Chau was accused of preventing an officer from arresting Ng, while Cheng was alleged to have pushed the barriers.

Ng and Cheng were both jailed for two weeks, but had their sentences suspended for a year. Chau was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.

Lawyers for the appellants argued the three were merely exercising their right to stage a “spontaneous demonstration”, in which protesters unable to obtain police approval for a procession may still legally gather under special circumstances.

Lawyers for Ng and Cheng further submitted that their clients were forced to resort to climbing over and pushing barriers because their constitutional rights had been infringed, and that they were not violent during the confrontation.

In Thursday’s ruling, Justice Alex Lee Wan-tang rejected those arguments, saying there were no exceptional circumstances present under which the three could not have informed police about their plans to protest ahead of time.

The judge pointed out the trio initially joined a procession organised by the Civil Human Rights Front that day, which was set to end at Statue Square in Central, but deviated from the designated protest route. Nevertheless, police had accommodated protesters’ demands accordingly, and reserved part of the road outside the office for them to stage a protest.

“I agree with the magistrate’s ruling, that is, protesters’ lawful rights have not been subject to any disproportionate restrictions,” Lee said.

He also agreed with the lower court that the act of climbing over and pushing police barriers must constitute disruption of public order.

Ng said after the ruling that he would consult his lawyers before deciding whether to lodge a final appeal at the top court.



Category: Hong Kong

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