Hong Kong courts

Greenpeace activists who stormed Observation Wheel in Hong Kong to unfurl banner in plastic protest fined HK$2,000 each by court

All 17 pleaded guilty to trespassing, later saying environmental group has responsibility to raise awareness of growing pollution problem

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 10:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 10:45am

Seventeen activists who stormed the 60-metre-high Observation Wheel at the Central waterfront in a Greenpeace protest against plastic waste last December were fined HK$2,000 (US$254) each by a Hong Kong court on Wednesday.

The Eastern Court heard participants ignored no trespassing signs and tried to hoist a 30-metre-long banner bearing the message “free plastic now” before the wheel opened for business on December 21.

Twelve of them – equipped with safety helmets, ropes and hooks – climbed up to the wheel’s main axis platform at 30 metres (98 feet) above ground.

But they were unsuccessful as strong winds prevented them from unfurling the banner, which then got torn apart as it became entangled in an anemometer and broke the wind-speed measuring device.

The group later heeded a police request to return to the ground, while firefighters and technicians removed the banner and replaced the damaged anemometer.

The repairs cost HK$22,000.

The wheel was forced to shut down on the day for inspection, affecting at least 1,731 prepaid customers and walk-in visitors. Each ride costs HK$20 per person.

On Wednesday, six men and 11 women pleaded guilty to one count of trespassing on an amusement ride, an offence punishable by a HK$5,000 fine and six months in jail.

They are Cheung Shuk-ning, 28; Christopher Fung Ka-keung, 39; Timothy Curtis Ko, 29; Ada Kong Cheuk-san, 32; Lam Hiu-fan, 29; Leung Shuk-mei, 36; Walton Li Yat-sun, 25; Lin Pui-yi, 31; Ma Chung-hung, 44; Ng Sze-man, 30; Ngai Kit-king, 30; So Leung-yan, 33; Tang Man-lam, 26; Wong Wai-kin, 46; Wu Chun-chi, 30; Alice Yeung Hoi-ha, 43; and Yiu Lut-tung, 26.

Most of the defendants hail from environmental groups, with some reporting ties to humanitarian rescue work, youth services and education.

They understood the legal consequences and accepted responsibility
Lo Ho-fai, defence lawyer

Defence lawyer Lo Ho-fai said in mitigation his clients were peaceful and fully cooperative with police during the protest aimed at raising awareness towards the problem of plastic waste.

“They understood the legal consequences and accepted responsibility,” Lo noted. “All the defendants would like to express their deepest apologies towards members of the public who were unable to enjoy the wheel.”

The 17 men and women were fined HK$2,000 each by acting chief magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen.

Greenpeace said in a statement it had a responsibility to raise public awareness and would continue to use direct, non-violent means to drive change to tackle the growing problem of plastic pollution.

Outside court, group campaigner Li said: “We hope the public, at the enterprise and personal level, will face this problem squarely.”

Two other activists in the group – Sanzini Nazareth, 35, from Italy, and Cetinkaya Yakup, 35, from Turkey – were earlier fined HK$2,000 after they pleaded guilty at a hearing last month.