Nine key Occupy figures – including co-founders Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming – chant slogans with hundreds of supporters at Hong Kong court just before public nuisance trial begins
- Biggest trial concerning 2014 civil disobedience movement is expected to last for more than two weeks
- Lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun are among the defendants
Nine key figures from Hong Kong’s massive Occupy protests in 2014 – including the three co-founders – chanted thundering slogans with hundreds of their supporters on Monday, ahead of their public nuisance trial.
“We want true democracy,” they yelled in unison, with an intensity that shook West Kowloon Court, where the nine are set to appear in Courtroom 3.
The co-founders – academics Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Dr Chan Kin-man, and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – face one count of conspiracy to cause public nuisance, inciting others to cause public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance during the civil disobedience movement for universal suffrage, which shut down parts of the city for 79 days.
Tai is a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, while Chan is an outgoing sociology professor at Chinese University.
Lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, as well as former student leaders Tommy Cheung Sau-yin and Eason Chung Yiu-wah, each face two incitement charges, as does Raphael Wong Ho-ming, the League of Social Democrats vice-chairman.
Former Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat faces incitement to commit public nuisance.
Supporters present included a long list of former and incumbent pan-democrat lawmakers such as Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai and his party comrade Lam Cheuk-ting; Alvin Yeung Ngor-kiu, Dennis Kwok, Alan Leong Ka-kit and Audrey Eu Yuet-mee from the Civic Party; the Labour Party's Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung; and Charles Mok, from the information technology constituency.
The Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan, who is running for the West Kowloon seat on the city's Legislative Council, was also in the crowd.
Chu prayed with his supporters on the ground floor before entering the court building, although the session was disrupted by court staff as journalists gathered to take photos and videos. The staff stepped in to warn members to press to take pictures only at the restricted press zone.
The trial is by far the biggest concerning the Occupy campaign, in which protesters blocked major roads across the city from late September to mid December 2014. The protests were sparked by a rigid political reform framework announced by Beijing the previous month.
The trial, expected to last for four weeks, has been moved from the District Court in Wan Chai to the West Kowloon Law Courts Building, a complex that boasts bigger and technologically more advanced courtrooms, as it is expected to attract a sizeable crowd of journalists and large public audience.
Numerous video clips will also be presented as court evidence.
District Court Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng will preside over the trial. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Earlier this year, lawyers for the trio took to the judge’s court to complain that one of the charges prosecutors had laid down – the one accusing them of inciting people to further incite others – was unconstitutional. But the judge did not agree. Nor was he convinced the charges the defendants faced were repetitive.
The nine will be represented by a list of top barristers, including Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes SC, Gerard McCoy SC, Wong Ching-yu SC, Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC, Robert Pang Yiu-hung SC, Edwin Choy Wai-bond SC and Hectar Pun Hei SC.
Prosecuting are Andrew Bruce SC and director of public prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin SC.
Last Thursday, Chan Kin-man, who chose to retire before his trial although he had more than five years of his tenure remaining, delivered his final lecture to a packed hall at Chinese University.
Human rights group Amnesty International called for the charges to be dropped against the nine in a statement released on Friday.