23 July 2019
Rejecting the charges laid against them in a case related to the 2014 Occupy campaign, nine democracy activists reminded authorities of the rights of freedom of speech and assembly. Photo: HKEJ
Rejecting the charges laid against them in a case related to the 2014 Occupy campaign, nine democracy activists reminded authorities of the rights of freedom of speech and assembly. Photo: HKEJ

Occupy leaders denounce ‘politically motivated’ trial

Nine democracy activists who went on trial on Monday for their perceived role in the 2014 Occupy street protests pleaded not guilty to all the charges laid out against them, while stressing that they have no regrets about their actions four years ago.

In a joint statement after court hearings began in their case, the nine said their refusal to plead guilty was because they want to fight against prosecution based on political motives, and also because they seek to do justice to history.

Reiterating that the civil disobedience movement was not aimed at sabotaging rule of law, they accused authorities of heavy-handedness in launching the prosecution, saying it goes against the tenets of freedom of speech and assembly.

The nine stressed that they have never had any regrets about their participation in the pro-democracy campaign.

Referring to the possibility of being sentenced to jail, the defendants, who include the three co-founders of Occupy Movement, said prison walls can only incarcerate their bodies, not their souls.

The defiant words came after a West Kowloon magistrates’ court began hearings Monday morning in a case related to 79-day Occupy protests of 2014.

Appearing in the court, academics Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Chan Kin-man, and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming — the three co-founders of the Occupy Movement — pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against each of them, namely conspiracy to cause public nuisance, inciting others to cause public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance.

The other six defendants also made a similar plea to the charges against them, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Among the six, Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong, social welfare functional constituency lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun, former Hong Kong Federation of Students members Tommy Cheung Sau-yin and Eason Chung Yiu-wa, and League of Social Democrats vice chairman Raphael Wong Ho-ming faced two nuisance charges , while former Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat faced a single charge.

Tai, who is an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong, told the HKEJ last week that the worst-case scenario is that he would be found guilty of all the three charges against him, and that he would likely be sentenced to one or two years in jail.

In his opening address in the court on Monday, senior counsel Andrew Bruce, who represents the prosecution, said the Occupy co-founders’ roles date back to March 2013, when they talked about the movement they called ‘Occupy Central With Love and Peace’ at a press conference.

According to Bruce, Tai mentioned at that time that he hoped to see at least 10,000 people join in the campaign.

In addition, the three co-founders took to a stage in the early hours of Sept. 28, 2014 to announce the onset of the Occupy Central movement, the prosecuting lawyer said.

Tai uttered the words “Occupy Central formally begins” at that time, Bruce said, presenting multiple news clips as evidence.

Tanya Chan, Shiu, Cheung, Chung and the three Occupy co-founders were accused of calling on protesters to stay and join mass sit-ins near the government headquarters and on the pavement of Tim Mei Avenue, on Sept. 27 and 28, 2014.

The prosecution argued that the seven defendants caused “unreasonable obstruction” to the public by inciting protesters to block several major thoroughfares for demonstration with the aim to participate in a “prolonged” and “indefinite” protest.

The trial continues on Tuesday, with the prosecution expected to play videos totaling 10 hours in court and calling six witnesses to the stand.

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