'Occupy Central' activist faces charges in court
Justice department says Melody Chan's arrest was free from political consideration, but the pro-democracy movement's organiser disagrees
An Occupy Central volunteer arrested for her role in a demonstration two years ago appeared in court yesterday.
Melody Chan Yuk-fung, 26, who was arrested on Wednesday, faced two charges. She was accused of organising a public meeting against the Public Order Ordinance and of taking part in an unauthorised assembly on July 1, 2011.
The trainee solicitor and former journalist's arrest has been labelled by Occupy Central supporters as a tactic to suppress the movement to occupy the city centre in a pro-democracy protest next year.
But the Department of Justice said in a rare statement yesterday the prosecution decision was free from any political consideration as it was made before the movement surfaced.
Chan submitted no plea, and Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai in the Eastern Court adjourned the case to next month, after Chan's lawyer, Jonathan Man Ho-ching, said the defendant needed four weeks to go through documents.
Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, a core organiser of the movement, said Chan was on her way to a movement meeting when she was arrested in Central.
He dismissed police chief Andy Tsang Wai-hung's claim the police did not take action earlier because they wanted to keep it low-key. Tsang said on Thursday an arrest warrant was issued for Chan in January last year, but she refused to co-operate.
"Miss Chan was arrested in a public area. That's not low-profile," Chu said. "If the warrant was issued last year, it's impossible she travelled out of Hong Kong."
Chan covered Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's official visit to Beijing in April last year as a journalist and also travelled to Sweden in August.
Chu said the Occupy Central supporters would continue to organise the movement and that Chan remained a volunteer.
"We are surprised that she's arrested. We were prepared for arrests, we just didn't expect it to come so soon," he said.
Meanwhile, 27 pan-democratic lawmakers yesterday issued a joint statement in defence of Chan, accusing the government of "political persecution and selective prosecuting", which they feared would jeopardise Hong Kong's freedom and the rule of law.
Civic Party leader and lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit said: "As a wanted person, Chan was going to work in Central every day. [She even] moderated a street forum in Mong Kok.
"She wasn't arrested then … but she was arrested while on her way to a volunteers' meeting of the Occupy Central movement. What was it, if it wasn't to create 'white terror'?"
Leong's party colleague Claudia Mo Man-ching said she had submitted a letter of complaint to the Complaints Against Police Office, the force's internal complaint investigation unit.