A group accused of entering the People’s Liberation Army Central Barracks illegally last month pleaded not guilty in court on Thursday to the charge of entering a closed area without a permit.
The four defendants – Billy Chiu Hin-chung, 29; Dickson Cheung Hong-yin, 40; Tse Wing-man, 29; and a 15-year-old male surnamed Chan – appeared before the Eastern Court and entered “not guilty” pleas for breaching section 38 of the Public Order Ordinance.
The section states that any person who illegally enters a restricted area “shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine … and to imprisonment for two years”.
It is alleged the four broke into the Central Barracks, next to the Hong Kong government headquarters in Admiralty, on December 26. They were carrying Hong Kong colonial-era flags. They were believed to be members of a pro-independence activist group calling itself Hongkongers Come First.
The court set a bail of HK$500 for each defendant, and the case was adjourned until February 27 for a pre-trial review.
The group reportedly broke into the barracks in protest at a plan to hand over a section of harbourfront land for the construction of a military pier, under a 1994 Sino-British deal.
The break-in had prompted concern from Beijing, and was condemned by some radical pan-democrats in Hong Kong.