'Large-Scale Political Prosecution' as Hong Kong Police Crack Down on Occupy Leaders

'Large-Scale Political Prosecution' as Hong Kong Police Crack Down on Occupy Leaders
photo credit: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha/達志影像

What you need to know

Former student leaders of the Umbrella Movement expect large-scale political prosecution following the election of pro-China Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

Several pro-democracy leaders of the 2014 Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong have received calls from the police saying that they will be charged with “creating a nuisance in public places,” Hong Kong Free Press reports.

The charges come just one day after the Hong Kong chief executive election, in which China’s preferred candidate Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) was elected, despite lagging behind in popularity polls.

Lam has declined to comment on the charges, saying that as the incoming chief executive, she would respect the Department of Justice, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) reports.

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The Chief Executive-elect, when asked if she felt “cheated” because the pro-democracy leaders were arrested despite her election pledge to unify a divided city, said that mending the divide in Hong Kong society did not mean legal compromise.

Three key organizers of the 2014 protests, University of Hong Kong Law Professor Benny Tai (戴耀廷), Chinese University of Hong Kong Associate Professor Chan Kin-man (陳健民) and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming (朱耀明), have all received calls from Hong Kong police in relation to the Occupy Central protests, later known as the Umbrella Movement.

The movement was formed as a counter to Beijing’s growing political influence in Hong Kong and called for true universal suffrage. Leaders of the movement claimed that Beijing had reneged on an agreement to grant Hong Kong open elections by 2017. Currently, Hong Kong’s chief executive is elected by a nominating committee of 1,200 people.

Former standing committee member of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, Chung Yiu-wa (鍾耀華) and Tommy Cheung Sau-yin (張秀賢), along with legislators Tanya Chan (陳淑莊) and Shiu Ka-chun (邵家臻) also received similar calls.

Shiu was one of the leading speakers at the main stage of the Occupy protests in Hong Kong’s Admiralty business district. He told RTHK that he received a call from the Wan Chai police telling him that they did not mean to arrest him today, but that they wanted to formally charge him with creating nuisance in a public place. Shiu also told RTHK that he was reminded to bring HKD 10,000 (US$1,200) for bail.

RTHK also reports that Tommy Cheung believes that the charges are political payback and that this round of arrests is a “show of power” from the newly elected Carrie Lam, while Chan Kin-man has told RTHK that charging the Occupy leaders would expand the divide in society instead of mending it.

Chan, who also took part in the 2014 protests, wrote on Facebook that the “pro-Chinese have come out to work now that the elections are over.” She also said that she would go to the police station after hosting the legislative committee’s panel of environmental affairs.

Under Section 4 of the Summary Offences Ordinance, any person charged with creating nuisances in public places are liable to a fine of HKD 500 or imprisonment of up to three months.

Legislator Nathan Law (羅冠聰), chairman of the pro-democracy Demosistō party and also a student leader during the Occupy protests, wrote in a Facebook post that the Umbrella Movement “settlement” (by the government) is expected to continue, and more core members of the Occupy protests are likely to be arrested.

Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), another former student leader in the Occupy protests, wrote on Twitter that “large-scale political prosecution” was expected.

In 2015, Wong and Law were charged with “taking part in unlawful assembly” for their roles in events that led to the Umbrella Movement. Wong was also charged with “inciting an uprising.” They were found guilty and sentenced to community service.

Wong was also detained while trying to enter Thailand to speak at a Chulalongkorn University in October 2016. A Thai student activist claimed that the Thai authorities had been warned by the Chinese authorities regarding Wong’s visit.

Editor: Olivia Yang