My Take

A crime is a crime, whoever commits it

Leaders of the 2014 Occupy movement are crying foul after being charged with inciting the protests, with claims demonstrators have ‘free will’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 April, 2017, 1:23am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 April, 2017, 1:23am

So much for their professed respect for the rule of law. More than 200 local and overseas academics have expressed “outrage and alarm” at the prosecution of nine Occupy leaders for their alleged roles at inciting others in the pro-democracy protests in 2014.

Shouldn’t our independent courts decide whether or not those charged are guilty? Why do “scholars”, local or otherwise, think they have any special insight or authority to judge the decisions of local prosecutors and courts? I have found taxi drivers, whose livelihoods were undermined by the protests, have had far more common sense, real-life experience and trustworthy judgment about the unrest.

There seems to be at least some evidence that the nine charged had helped organise and incite people to protest. It was all captured on TV. Maybe they did it for what they considered a noble cause. But encouraging people to block three major arteries of a big city in a protest that lasted for months would, I think, have broken a few laws under any jurisdiction.

“We are alarmed and outraged,” the joint statement by the academics said.

Occupy leaders make first Hong Kong court appearance flanked by 100 supporters with yellow umbrellas

“These criminal prosecutions against peaceful academics and citizens have immense chilling effects on the international and local academia, students and the youth, in addition to inflicting permanent damage to Hong Kong’s reputation as a free and open society.”

Permanent damage to our city’s reputation? I know of no Western democracy that would allow protesters to occupy a key city location for months, let alone three major traffic arteries; and many of those arrested would have been charged.

And chilling effects? What they mean is that if you think your cause is just or if it is one that they approve of, you ought to be able to do anything without suffering the consequences.

Chan Kin-man certainly thinks so.

The Occupy co-founder has reportedly said he and his alleged partners-in-crime – fellow academic Benny Tai Yiu-ting and the Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – would not plead guilty, after all.

Didn’t these guys write in their Occupy pledge: “To carry out acts of civil disobedience, give themselves up to the authorities and file no defence in the trial”?

Chan, a sociology lecturer, was quoted as saying the charges against them couldn’t be true because they were “based on the backward assumption that those incited do not have a free will”.

Surely you must be joking, Professor Chan?