Leaders of Hong Kong's Pro-Democracy Movement Convicted

Clay Curtis
April 11, 2019

Those found guilty include law professor Benny Tai, retired sociology professor Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming. But the protests failed to win any reforms or concessions from Beijing.

For 79 days in late 2014, Hong Kong democracy activists camped out in front of government headquarters and blocked major thoroughfares, staging the most significant political uprising China has seen since the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing.

Pro-democracy protesters hold up umbrellas on October 28, 2014 during a rally marking one month of the "Umbrella Revolution", when police shot tear gas at the protesters one month ago at the Central District in Hong Kong.

The trio had pleaded not guilty to all charges, each of which carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence.

Hong Kong's Justice Department eventually brought the charges against the group leaders, more than two years after the protest ended.

"Hong Kong courts, by labeling peaceful protests in pursuit of rights as public nuisance, are sending a bad message that will likely embolden the government to prosecute more peaceful activists, further chilling free expression in Hong Kong", Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. But Hong Kong judges have since faced mounting pressure from Beijing to hand down heavier sentences to deter future protests.

The concept of civil disobedience is "recognized in Hong Kong", Justice Johnny Chan said in a summary of his judgment, but it was not a defense against a criminal charge.

Three leading Hong Kong democracy campaigners will find out if they face jail Tuesday for their involvement in mass rallies, with their trial sparking renewed alarm over shrinking political freedoms under an assertive China.

Pro-democracy lawmakers have been kicked out of the legislature, a pro-independence party banned, and democracy advocates jailed and barred from contesting local elections.

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Prosecutors argued they were guilty of incitement because they had called on the public to join them.

Occupy Central leaders, from right, Shiu Ka Chun, Lee Wing Tat, Raphael Wong, Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man, Chu Yiu-ming, Tanya Chan, Eason Chung and Tommy Cheung pose for photographers before entering a court in Hong Kong, Tuesday, April 9, 2019.

"No matter what happens today... we will persist on and do not give up", Mr Tai told reporters ahead of the verdict.

Another of the Umbrella 9, legislator Shiu Ka-chun, a former lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University, said in his mitigation letter to the court which he circulated to the media on Tuesday: "I want to warn the authoritarian government, even if you kill all the roosters, you can not stop the dawn's arrival".

"We have no regrets ... we have not given up", he said, moving some witnesses to tears, and spurring sustained applause from supporters. We have no anger.

In a submission sent to journalists fellow defendant Shiu Ka-chun added: "I want to warn the authoritarian government, even if you kill all the roosters, you can not stop the dawn's arrival".

Speaking to the media before the verdict hearing this week, Chan said he was willing to go to jail for democracy, and although he had been offered academic posts overseas, he wanted to face trial in Hong Kong for the goal of historical record. They also saw the large public support for their demonstrations as proof that many of Hong Kong's residents either tolerated or approved of their actions.

More than 250 other democracy activists were prosecuted and more than 100 convicted at two previous trials - these included former student leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow.

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