Date
20 August 2017
Timothy O'Leary (inset) says civil disobedience similar to the July 1 sit-in protest in Central should not be confused with traditional illegal activities. Photos: HKEJ, HKU
Timothy O'Leary (inset) says civil disobedience similar to the July 1 sit-in protest in Central should not be confused with traditional illegal activities. Photos: HKEJ, HKU

O’Leary: Civil disobedience different from illegal activity

A leading Hong Kong academic said civil disobedience is a “special kind” of illegal activity whose ultimate aim is to improve the legal system.

Timothy O’Leary, head of the School of Humanities of the University of Hong Kong, said the protest action should not be confused with “traditional illegal activities”, according to Apple Daily.

The school backed students who took part in a July 1 sit-in protest in Central and praised them for their willingness to fight for democracy and openness in a non-violent way.

“Students go against the law because they respect the law and are willing to face charges. This is different from traditional illegal activities,” he said.

O’Leary said he does not encourage students to break the law but to stand up for the principles behind it.

These same principles inspired Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. when they led non-violent campaigns to fight for changes in the legal system for a better society, he said.

He said the HKU School of Humanities supports students fighting for democracy in Hong Kong.

Earlier, pro-establishment groups warned students who are planning to take part in a planned civil disobedience by Occupy Central that they risk their future if they end up with a criminal record.

O’Leary dismissed the warning, saying that if the students are prosecuted, they will have shown that they are willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their principles.

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