Democracy protesters arrested during Chater Road sit-in are unconditionally released

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 July, 2014, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 6:49pm

Another nine protesters were during the Chater Road sit-in were released unconditionally today as they refused to renew their bail at the police station.

The nine protesters, including lawmaker Leung Yiu-chung and Democratic Party district councillor Au Nok-hin, were released half an hour after entering Central police station today. This followed the release of 11 protesters in the same sit-in yesterday. They were among 511 people arrested over the sit-in.

“I understand that this is a collective action. As so many people are refusing bail, I think its better we to stick together,” said Leung, who earlier said he would not refuse to renew his bail.

The unconditional release means that the requirement for them to report back to a police station periodically has been lifted.

However, the investigation into the alleged unlawful assembly was ongoing and police retained the right to prosecute the protesters, a spokesman for the force said yesterday.

The protesters of the overnight sit-in that followed the July 1 pro-democracy march were arrested for organising and taking part in unlawful assembly. They refuse to renew bail, saying police should either prosecute them if they have enough evidence or let them go.

They say they would be willing to plead guilty as what they did were an act of civil disobedience, calling for genuine universal suffrage for the 2017 chief executive election.

Meanwhile, five organisers of the July 1 march who were arrested for leading the march too slowly renewed their bail today and are due to report back to police on September 26.

The 11 people released yesterday include Johnson Yeung Ching-yin, convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front, organiser of the annual July 1 democracy rally; Alex Chow Yong-kang of the Federation of Students, which staged the overnight Chater Road sit-in on July 2; and Labour Party lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan.

Legal heavyweight Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee described the unconditional release as a "reasonable" move.

But the incident indicated it had been unnecessary for police to require bail for the protesters, Ng said.

"Police [should] not do it as a matter of routine … as it might affect the [protesters'] personal liberty," the barrister, formerly a Civic Party lawmaker representing the legal sector, said.

Officers arrested 511 people for unlawful assembly and for aiding and assisting an unlawful assembly.

Yeung said the reporting system should not be applied to monitor protesters who had engaged in civil disobedience.

"This system was adopted to prevent arrestees from fleeing the city, but we have declared we are willing to bear legal responsibility," he said.

He suggested the system could be misused in order to hamper activists' ability to take part in future protests.

Ng urged the police to decide as soon as possible whether to charge any of the protesters.

A delayed prosecution would be unfair to them and would run counter to the rule of law, she added.

Additional reporting by Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee