‘No regrets’ for pro-independence activists who broke into PLA headquarters

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 June, 2014, 6:49pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 June, 2014, 9:27pm

Despite facing ridicule and possible jail terms, the protesters accused of breaking into the People’s Liberation Army barracks in Admiralty believe their action was worth it.

Dickson Cheung Hon-yin, 40, one of the four accused, told the South China Morning Post in January that they were simply fighting, as citizens, for the right to save the harbourfront and express disgruntlement at Chinese rule.

The four are part of Hongkongers Come First, which, at 30 members, is the city’s lone advocacy group pushing for the territory’s separation from the People’s Republic of China. They call themselves “independence warriors”.

The PLA barracks became the target as the group wanted to demonstrate against the plan for a new military pier in Central.

Despite public misgivings, the 150-metre site will officially be rezoned from a public open space to a site for military purposes after it secures approval from the Executive Council later this year.

Hongkongers Come First want the government to keep its promise and save the harbour for citizens.

Watch: Who is this group and why did they do it?

The four members were arrested on New Year’s Day and charged with trespassing.

Cheung and another member Tse Wing-man, 29, were each fined HK$2,000 on Thursday after pleading guilty to one charge of entering a closed area without a permit. A third member Billy Chiu Hin-Chung, who denied the charge, was convicted and received a suspended jail term for 12 months.

Magistrate So Wai-tak said the court believed the trio only intended to express their views in a restricted place and did not intend to cause any damage to military equipment there. So also said their protest did not last long and no physical contact took place.

Some in the public have dismissed their action on Boxing Day last year – in which they went into the compound brandishing colonial-era Hong Kong flags, shouting, “Hong Kong is my country” – as a “childish prank”. Netizens called them “idiots” and “sickos”.

Cheung says they ignore the accusations and criticisms. “What we are doing might not be useful,” he said. “But at least we’re doing something.”

Besides, Cheung says, “How could they say we broke into the barracks? There is no warning sign at the gate.”

He said they were not afraid of any threats from Beijing and he didn’t feel they were being monitored by the central government.

Hongkongers Come First, formed in January last year, is a self-funded, mainly social media-based campaign group – and doesn’t hold an office.

Its two Facebook pages has around 12,000 “likes”. Cheung said their old Facebook pages had around 25,000 likes, but these were blocked due to “indecent posts” such as news of mainlanders urinating in public.

Despite their heated rhetoric, they group claims not to be political or activist. They are airing their anger, as citizens, at the mainland Chinese and expressing their hope for achieving an independent Hong Kong – that is, governed by Britain.

Billy Chiu is furious at a new policy that allows immigrants to enjoy government subsidies after living in Hong Kong for one year – while he himself has been waiting for public housing for more than 10 years.

Cheung, the brain and soul of the group, joined the movement against national education in 2012 – a series of protests against implementation of a politically charged school curriculum denounced as pro-Beijing “brainwashing” – for his two daughters.

“If we don’t do this [achieving the independence for Hong Kong], my daughters and the following generations would live in a city no different than the other cities in [mainland] China,” he said. He fears this will feature “PLA crackdowns” and the rise of chengguan, city police known for a brutal brand of justice.

“We would like to see a Hong Kong governed by Britain again, so he could live an ordinary life after the goal is achieved,” he said.

“Hong Kong was ruled by the Britain under the system of constitutional monarchy for more than a hundred years,” Cheung said, “Things were fine then and Hong Kong became a prosperous city.”

“See what Hong Kong has become now after being taken over by the Chinese Communist Party,” he added, “Everybody is unhappy.”