Top kuk officials stand by accused

TOP Heung Yee Kuk officials yesterday rallied behind a member who appeared in court over a protest outside the Legislative Council last month.

Lai Kwok-yiu, 58, was charged with assaulting United Democrat legislator Lee Wing-tat.

The charge was laid under a provision - invoked for the first time - of the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance.

Kuk members, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Chinese characters for ''political persecution'', accompanied Lai to Western Court.

Lai pleaded not guilty. Magistrate Ian Candy fixed July 5 as the trial date and granted Lai bail of $10,000 on his own recognisance.

His supporters included kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat and vice-chairmen Lam Wai-keung and Liu Ching-leung, who said they were there to lend Lai moral support.

Earlier, kuk members had gathered at Central police station to await a decision on whether Lai would be charged.

On March 22, Mr Lee, who was about to enter the Legislative Council chambers, was punched in the back when about 1,000 villagers from the New Territories rallied outside to protest against proposals to allow women to inherit rural land.