LSD members fined for highway protest

Magistrate says they put other road users at risk when they stopped to unfurl banners nearby

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 August, 2013, 9:15pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 5:44am

Five League of Social Democrats activists were fined yesterday for improper use of an expressway during a protest in June last year when then-president Hu Jintao was visiting the city.

Magistrate Winnie Lau Yee-wan said in Tsuen Wan Court that they posed a danger to other road users by stopping and getting out of their car on the North Lantau Highway.

People are usually fined a few hundred dollars for common traffic offences. But our fines are almost at the maximum, which is unreasonable. This is political prosecution

Executive party member Wong Ho-ming, 24, who was among the five, said outside court that the fines - HK$4,500 for two of them and HK$3,000 for the other three - were unreasonably high.

"People are usually fined a few hundred dollars for common traffic offences. But our fines are almost at the maximum, which is unreasonable," he said. "This is political prosecution."

The maximum penalty for unauthorised use of an expressway is a HK$5,000 fine and three months' imprisonment.

Wong and Chan Tak-cheung, 24, were fined HK$4,500 each. They denied using the expressway without authorisation, and told the court that they were not remorseful. After their conviction yesterday, the pair said they would consider lodging an appeal.

On June 29, driver Lam Sum-shing, 70, pulled over in the emergency lane of the North Lantau Highway. His four passengers got out and climbed over a metal fence, scrambling onto a slope to hold up two banners reading: "Vindication of the June 4th crackdown"; and "Give me back [Li] Wangyang". Li was a jailed mainland dissident who was found dead in a Hunan hospital in June last year.

The protest did not obstruct traffic on the expressway, the court heard. The group were hoping to catch Hu's attention as he was driven from the airport at the start of a three-day visit to mark the 15th anniversary of the city's handover. Lam was fined HK$3,000 for unauthorised stopping of a vehicle. He had pleaded guilty to the charge. He is the father of primary school teacher Alpais Lam Wai-sze, who is at the centre of a furore after she launched a verbal attack on police officers during a dispute in Mong Kok.

Lau yesterday ruled that the three police officers called by the prosecution were honest and reliable. Three of the activists had earlier accused the police of "selective prosecution".

Lau ruled that Wong's defence that the police had not told them where the protest zone was, and that they were unfamiliar with the area, was unreasonable.

The two other protesters, Andrew To Kwan-hang, 46, and Ma Wan-ki, 19, pleaded guilty to unauthorised use of an expressway and were fined HK$3,000 each.

Lau said the sentences took into account the fact that they did not cause any actual danger.