Six Hong Kong activists found guilty of unlawful assembly

Written by Staff Writer Six Hong Kong democracy activists have been found guilty of unlawful assembly at an event on June 4, 2014. It was the second trial in two months in which activists…

Six Hong Kong activists found guilty of unlawful assembly

Written by Staff Writer

Six Hong Kong democracy activists have been found guilty of unlawful assembly at an event on June 4, 2014.

It was the second trial in two months in which activists were charged with allegedly occupying the city’s government building following controversial election of chief executive at the end of last year.

More broadly, the six are among about a dozen activists who staged “tea parties” in 2014 to call for democracy in the former British colony. The protests resulted in clashes between police and demonstrators on occasion.

The six who were convicted include the deposed chief secretary, Anson Chan, as well as a former leader of the pro-democracy Democratic Party.

Appeals of the convictions are expected to be filed within the next few weeks, with further hearings scheduled for later this year.

Pro-democracy campaigner Joshua Wong, who walked out of court crying on hearing the verdict, told reporters the six had been found guilty of “saying no” to Hong Kong’s government.

Chan’s case

Chan and her lawyer, Gary Lee, were found guilty of the charge of unlawful assembly for walking around government headquarters before the tripartite decision to allow Beijing’s chief representative to the city to vote for the Chief Executive.

Prosecutors had argued Chan acted as an organiser of the event, and that the “tea party” constituted a demonstration, since the participants used their group assembly rights to “personally” protest outside the government offices.

Chan was charged under Hong Kong’s Public Order Ordinance, which criminalizes acts or actions at unlawful gatherings and on public streets and sidewalks, or on the public transportation system.

Chan’s trial began last month. She claims her arrest was arbitrary, designed to suppress the peaceful assembly that took place on June 4, 2014, according to the website for her legal firm.

“Although I did not obstruct a police officer or behave violently, I nevertheless suffered damages as a result of the public accusation which undermined my reputation,” Chan told the court.

Chan’s lawyer had urged a lenient sentence, saying his client had spent several years defending the country’s democratic rights, “I feel the tragedy of Hong Kong has overwhelmed my client who was an able civil servant with no previous criminal record.”

Former Hong Kong Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho was also found guilty of the same offense, charged along with former party leadership member Jamie Lau.

All six had pleaded not guilty and said they were “in no sense” organizers of the tea party. A seventh person who was arrested but not charged with disorderly behavior had asked to be put on trial.

The defendants expressed regret for what they described as a “shallow” discussion on politics.

“I was really keen on rejecting any instruction to protest, and lead others to occupy any part of the Civic Square,” Lau said in court during his own trial last month.

Gerrymandering

The defendants were also accused of holding an unlawful assembly on Dec. 20, 2014 — an illegal act that carries a maximum prison sentence of six months, according to local law.

Another indictment against Chan, Lau and Ho was dismissed. Chan and Lau deny ever attending a protest on Dec. 20. Lau’s lawyer said his client was at the Civic Square during Chan’s indictment hearing, but did not attend that charge hearing.

In a statement, Chan and others involved said they would appeal against the verdict, adding that they want to have “healthy, vigorous and useful” talks on democracy issues with the government.

Chan appeared in court on Thursday for the first time since her release from jail earlier this month, and could be in contempt of court due to her absence. The police said they intended to file an application to the court to compel her to appear.

Since the 2014 protests, Hong Kong’s local democratic parties have been relatively inactive, and organizations that took part in the occupation of government buildings have begun to fall apart.

More than half of the electorate failed to cast their vote for a directly elected chief executive at a December 2016 poll — marking the first-ever election without a Communist Party candidate.

Most of the protesters that took part in the protests against the elected Chief Executive have since been released.

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