Jail term for Hong Kong lawmaker ‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung over protest at debating event

Radical handed seven-day sentence for protest aimed at Chief Secretary Carrie Lam but is freed on bail pending appeal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 6:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 2:43am

Radical lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung was jailed for seven days on Monday for disturbing participants at a school debating event last year when he and others staged a protest directed at Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

He was immediately freed on HK$4,000 cash bail, pending an appeal that will also be lodged by his co-defendant, People Power activist Tam Tak-chi, who was sentenced to seven days’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

Leung said outside Eastern Court the ruling was like a knife placed above all protesters as they were not warned by anyone at the time that they might be breaking the law, nor told to leave the venue.

“The right to demonstrate in front of political celebrities will exist no more,” he said.

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Tam, who previously had a clear record, added their case was a warning to all not to cause any trouble. “We were just chanting slogans and waving placards, no one expected a protest of this nature would warrant a jail sentence,” he said.

The pair had argued that the charge against them breached their right to express themselves freely during a peaceful assembly in a public place.

But that was rejected in Eastern Court, which found Leung, 60, and Tam, 44, had intentionally “obstructed, disturbed, interrupted or annoyed” other people who were using the Queen Elizabeth Stadium during the 30th Sing Tao Inter-School Debating Competition on May 15 last year.

Acting principal magistrate ­Joseph To Ho-shing noted the protest was staged at a civic centre, a unique environment protected by specific laws – unlike street protests where people could just leave if they did not want to be disturbed.

“This case involved an event that was planned for more than a year,” To said. “The defendants’ behaviour violated the lawful exercise of the constitutional rights and freedom of more than 2,000 people.”

Leung and Tam, he said, could have staged their protest on ­another occasion while the parents and students attending the event had only one opportunity to enjoy their rights on the 30th anniversary of the competition, and they had clearly showed their disagreement at the protest.

Leung took a deep breath as To delivered the verdict while Tam did not react.

Under the Civic Centres Regulation, the offence is punishable by a HK$5,000 fine and one-month imprisonment.

Neither defendant took the stand nor called any witnesses in their favour.

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The court heard that organisers had begun preparations for the event the summer before. It was attended by 2,424 students, parents, teachers and guests ­including Lam, former Bar ­Association chairman Paul Shieh Wing-tai and then-director of ­information services Patrick Nip Tak-kuen.

Dozens of protesters began shouting, chanting slogans, waving banners and throwing paper balls when Lam was escorted into the venue, and they repeatedly disrupted speeches by Shieh and Nip.

Lam’s speech was eventually cancelled and she left the venue early. The commotion lasted for 30 minutes.

Sing Tao reported it to police a few days later and filed a civil suit in June last year, demanding more than HK$1.5 million from the duo and district councillor Mandy Tam Heung-man, also from People Power. The company is seeking an injunction to bar the three from its future events.