Eight Hong Kong activists convicted of unlawful assembly
Charges from clash with police after June 4 vigil in North Point labelled a political prosecution
Eight activists who were among 53 protesters arrested in a clash with police in North Point after last year's June 4 vigil were yesterday convicted of unlawful assembly, prompting claims that freedom of assembly is under threat.
Bobo Yip Po-lam, Chu Hoi-dick, Chu Kong-wai, Icarus Wong Ho-yin, Lee Sai-hung, Kitty Hung Hiu-han, Alan Ming Wai-tim and Chan Ping-fung, aged between 23 and 53, were each convicted in Eastern Court.
Outside the court, Wong said the prosecution was political. Increasingly serious charges had been brought against protesters in recent years, he said.
"Now Hong Kong is facing a new situation of political prosecution … people will associate it with a policy of maintaining stability in mainland China. They also use the reason of national security to restrict freedom of assembly," he said.
The court heard that 150 people marched from Victoria Park to North Point police station on June 4 last year after an annual candlelight vigil commemorating the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square. Their march was a protest against the arrest of 113 people at a demonstration in March against the government's budget.
Clashes broke out after they were stopped at the junction of King's Road and Tin Chong Street in North Point.
Magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing said the clashes were a breach of the peace.
The court heard that the marchers did not obtain a notice of no objection from the police, a document required for a demonstration. They had told police officers of their plans before setting off from the park. To rejected a defence argument that the procedure requiring a written application breached the Basic Law, which protects freedom of demonstration. He said the restriction was reasonable and that an oral agreement was not reliable.
He also rejected a submission that police unlawfully detained the protesters by surrounding them for 20 minutes before they were arrested. To said the conviction was based on video clips filmed by officers.
Defence lawyers pleaded for non-custodial sentences - either fines or community service - saying the defendants had marched for social justice, not personal interest.
But To cited a previous case in which a protester was jailed for six months for blocking traffic. He asked: "Why should I give a lighter sentence?"
Sentencing was adjourned until October 12.