• Tue
  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 4:06pm
Occupy Central
NewsHong Kong
POLITICS

Occupy Central leaders keeping plans under wraps to avoid conspiracy charges

One legal expert says the moment concrete details are announced, they could be prosecuted

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 July, 2014, 5:02am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 July, 2014, 8:28am
 

Occupy Central leaders could face conspiracy charges if and when they announce detailed plans for the sit-in they have threatened, one criminal law expert says.

The word of caution from Simon Young Ngai-man, a Hong Kong University law professor, comes after police toughened their stance against pro-democracy protesters over the past week. That included the mass arrest of 511 people who took part in a sit-in on Chater Road after the July 1 march.

Occupy co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said his movement's plan to paralyse Hong Kong's business hub would only go ahead if the government's proposal for the 2017 chief executive election did not meet international standards for universal suffrage and gain public approval.

But Young said Tai and his followers could be arrested for conspiracy even before Occupy took any action.

Once leaders announce concrete details regarding the time, location, and manner of the demonstration, they will open themselves up to a charge of conspiracy, said Young, who teaches criminal law and rights in the criminal process.

Tai shares the concern. "This is the reason we have not announced any details on the final action plan," he told the Sunday Morning Post.

Tai's movement calling for "genuine" universal suffrage is gaining favour in the city. Its 10-day unofficial referendum on methods by which Hongkongers could choose their own chief executive candidates drew an unexpected turnout of almost 800,000 people. Those who participated voted for one of three proposals presented by civil groups for electoral reform for the 2017 election.

When the government releases its electoral reform blueprint, probably in the autumn or winter, Occupy will organise a second "referendum" to ask people if they think it is acceptable. If the result is negative, the leaders will be satisfied that all legal means have been exhausted and will call on 10,000 people to take part in the sit-in. Tai has said he is aware organisers of the action could be prosecuted for unauthorised assembly and obstruction of public places.

The concept of civil disobedience, which the well-known political scientist Gene Sharp defined as "deliberate peaceful violation of particular laws, decrees, regulations, ordinances, military or police commands, or other orders", is not new to Hong Kong but has not got legal traction in Hong Kong's courts.

In a recent flag desecration case, two defendants, activists Koo Sze-yiu and Ma Wan-ki, based their defence on the concept. But the court did not accept it as a mitigating factor, and in May denied their application to the Court of Final Appeal.

Civic Party leader Alan Leong Kah-kit said he would not be surprised if the government prosecuted the Occupy leaders. "With Leung Chun-ying at the helm, anything goes. He is prepared to do anything to create this horror," Leong said, referring to political prosecution.

Leong said he came to the conclusion after the mass arrests over the past week. On Wednesday, police detained 511 protesters who took part in an overnight sit-in that followed the July 1 democracy march. Of these, 25 were later released on bail while the 486 others received warnings. On Friday, five organisers of the march were arrested for leading the rally too slowly.

Of the five, the driver of the truck that led the procession was also accused of vacating a motor vehicle without having stopped the engine - an offence Leong described as "archaic".

Police were unable to say yesterday how many arrests had been made for this offence in the past few years.

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This article is now closed to comments

chuchu59
The Government's electoral reform blueprint is unlikely to spring any surprises and consequently wont be deemed acceptable by the majority of HK people. Should OC carry out a 'second referendum' they should ensure that this time respondents are given genuine choices. I didn't vote last time because I liked none of the 3 proposals and some people have stated that they would have wanted to vote against OC or public nomination. OC needs to ponder carefully on the questions asked in the poll. Of course, should the government issue an acceptable blueprint all this wont be necessary but then it seems just wishful thinking.
ianson
In the Hong Kong courts, the charge of conspiracy is reserved for serious offences. There has NEVER been a case brought in Hong Kong for conspiracy to create an unauthorised assembly, nor one for conspiracy to cause an obstruction in a public place, nor even one of conspiracy to obstruct a police officer in the due execution of his duty. If such charges are brought, while technically correct, it will draw the derision and disgust of thinking people worldwide. It will make Hong Kong a laughing stock as much as it would if it started issuing summonses to people doing 51 km or 71 km on Harcourt Road.
ianson
Prof. Young is no doubt correct, a technical offence will have been committed. But countless minor technical offences are committed every day in Hong Kong of which the police are fully aware, and no arrests or prosecutions follow. Why? Because of a healthy sense of proportion. Take, for example, the offence of jaywalking. Anyone care to guess how many people jaywalk in the full view of police officers each day? Thousands upon thousands. What about driving in excess of the speed limit? Hundreds of thousands of instances every day, right outside every police station in Hong Kong and certainly thousands on Harcourt Road outside Government HQ. The list goes on and on. Peacefully blocking the streets of Central as a show of community outrage over the theft of democratic reform by our government has the highest possible legitimacy and must command respect, not prosecution by that government, IF we still live in a society where the rights to free speech and assembly exist.
honger
"With Leung Chun-ying at the helm, anything goes. He is prepared to do anything to create this horror," Leong said, referring to political prosecution."
KK Leung knows the law very well as a lawyer - the arrests has nothing to do with who the CE is - it is part of the civil order of this city. Political prosecution? The same would have happened in London, New York or Tokyo.
Yet again, the wannabe CE is politising/milking the issue for political mileage.
Artie
How is causing chaos by closing down Central help the average person in Hk? Why should there be an assumption that if there is universal suffrage we don't get more clowns like long hair and Wong. I do think democracy is generally good but this does not mean that the govt will necessarily yield a worst CE.
easynews
Do not "occupy". Stay home Hong Kong, stay home for a month, do not buy anything other than daily necessities, stop shopping, stop eating out, stop commuting, stop trading stocks, stop working.....Any Government will be willing to talk.
cleareye
Did Occupy Wall Street achieve anything positive? Where are the occupiers now? Did the police use force? Was blood spilled? They were gone as soon as the economy picked up and jobs restored. That is what the government, both in Beijing and Hong Kong, are working to achieve - to maintain a stable economy that Occupy Central is trying to destroy.
5381759a-6c88-46c2-b3cf-52a60a3209cb
Good, charge them! Embody the rule of law!
Paradox314
This is a great idea. Massive strikes were used against the apartheid regime in South Africa. It was also very effective in Poland. I have a feeling, though, that HK people won't have a taste for it.
Paradox314
Don't be absurd Honger. But the poster is very correct. In the NT and outlying islands, for example, setting off firecrackers and fireworks is done by nearly everyone. Yet it is illegal in HK. The police always turn a blind eye. There is definitely selective enforcement. So, charging someone for getting out of an idling vehicle? Very clearly is political persecution.

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