Hong Kong Occupy leader denied trial by jury at High Court
Magistrate rejects request for a six-week adjournment for protester to seek ‘justice’ after prosecutors say he must be tried before a judge in the District Court
A magistrate denied a key player in the pro-democracy Occupy movement of 2014 time to argue for his case to be heard before a jury in the High Court.
Barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming SC, for Raphael Wong Ho-ming, vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats, asked for a six-week adjournment when Wong and eight other protesters and leaders returned to Eastern Court on Thursday to face various public nuisance charges related to the 79 days of street demonstrations.
The barrister said the adjournment was for Wong – and possibly other defendants – to seek “justice” by lodging an application for a judicial review to challenge what Wong claimed was the unconstitutionality of prosecutors to have him tried at the District Court, thereby without a jury.
But the adjournment application was quickly dismissed by magistrate Kenneth Chan Ping-chau, who said he had no power to resist the prosecution request, rendering Lee’s bid meaningless.
In reply to Lee, who complained about the prosecution taking 2½ years to bring the case to court but giving them little time to prepare, the magistrate said: “Mr Lee wants justice. Delayed justice is denied justice.”
He said the defendants would still have time to prepare before the trial.
The nine appearing in court included the three founders of Occupy Central founders – academics Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Dr Chan Kin-man, and the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – who each face three charges: conspiracy to cause public nuisance, inciting others to cause public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance.
Lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun as well as former student leaders Tommy Cheung Sau-yin and Eason Chung Yiu-wah each face two incitement charges, as does Wong.
Former lawmaker Lee Wing-tat faces one charge of inciting others to cause public nuisance.
Prosecutors amended the wording of the Chinese version of a variety of public nuisance charges they face.
The magistrate adjourned the case to June 15 for a hearing at the District Court.
Outside court, Wong said he wanted the trial to be conducted before a jury so that public could take part, much like the Occupy protest. He had applied for legal aid and was waiting for approval before pursuing the judicial review.
Chan Kin-man said the defendants would decide in the coming weeks whether to make guilty pleas based on whether police allegations were based on facts, if the charges were appropriate and whether their pleas would have implications for constitutional rights in future cases.
“If they charge us with creating violence, we are not going to accept it,” he said.