Hong Kong courts

Video of Occupy protest appears to contradict prosecution theory that organisers incited crowd

  • Clip shows crowd telling Raphael Wong they had come of their own free will
  • But prosecutors claim ringleaders incited crowd to cause trouble
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 8:07pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2018, 10:59pm

Occupy protesters were filmed in 2014 denying they had been incited to take part in the civil disobedience movement that brought Hong Kong to a standstill four years ago.

Video footage of the incident was played by prosecutors in West Kowloon Court on Thursday, on the fourth day of the trial of nine leaders of the 79-day disturbance.

The clip lies in direct contrast to prosecutors’ version of events, with officials painting a picture of the nine as ringleaders who planned the disturbance for a year, and encouraged protesters to cause trouble.

In the video, activist Raphael Wong Ho-ming, one of the accused, is seen asking the crowd gathering at Harcourt Road on September 28, 2014 – the first day of the protest – if they were attending of their own free will.

The crowd replied: “Yes.”

But prosecutors have said the Occupy nine mobilised the crowd to Admiralty that day to obstruct major thoroughfares connecting busy business districts, something that had repercussions for the coming weeks and months to come.

The prosecution believes the campaign was a politically motivated protest designed to force authorities to back down from implementing reforms proposed by Beijing in August 2014. They have also used selected video footage of the disturbance to support that theory.

Occupy leaders on trial: who they are and what they’re accused of

Three Occupy founders, academics Benny Tai Yiu-ting, 54, and Dr Chan Kin-man, 59, as well as Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, 74, have pleaded not guilty to three joint charges: one of conspiracy to cause public nuisance; one of inciting others to cause public nuisance; and one of inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance.

Vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats Wong, 30, lawmakers Shiu Ka-chun, 49, and Tanya Chan, 47, and former student leaders Tommy Cheung Sau-yin, 24, and Eason Chung Yiu-wa, 26, have all denied the two incitement charges.

While former Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, 63, has denied one count of incitement to commit public nuisance.

On Thursday, the court was also shown footage of police firing tear gas at one of the protesters’ strongholds on Harcourt Road, in a bid to disperse the crowd.

In the video, protesters are seen running in all directions, with some holding umbrellas, which later became the symbol of what quickly became known on social media as the “umbrella movement”.

Another video clip showed Tai, Chan Kin-man, and Chu urging protesters to retreat during a televised news segment on December 2.

Tai said it had become too dangerous to continue, because police had been using violence to crack down on protesters.

“Young people are using their bodies to withstand the blows of polices batons,” he said at the time.

“A government that uses the police baton to maintain its authority is a heartless regime.”

The memories of the police violence of four years ago promoted Tanya Chan, and Tai to shed tears in court on Thursday.

Keep fighting: Pussy Riot’s message to young Hong Kong political activists

In the video, Tai is asked if the campaign has failed. He responds that at least they had awoken the democratic spirit within a generation of Hong Kong people. Chan Kin-man urged people to start preaching the desire for democracy in their local communities.

A day after the news segment aired, Tai, Chan Kin-man, and Chu all pledged to surrender themselves to authorities to answer for their actions.

The trial continues before Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng on Monday.