Hong Kong political reform

Student leaders did not want Occupy founders to be part of their protest, Hong Kong court told

  • Lawyer for Tommy Cheung makes shock claim as he questions Dr Chan Kin-man one of driving forces behind movement
  • Claim further evidence of split that emerged between two groups involved in civil disobedience
PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2018, 9:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2018, 10:53pm

Student leaders never wanted the founders of the Occupy protests involved in their demonstration, and turned it into the civil disobedience movement that brought Hong Kong to a standstill in 2014, a Hong Kong court heard Monday.

A lawyer for one of the student leaders, Tommy Cheung Sau-ying, made the claim during the trial of nine people accused of playing leading roles in the pro-democracy movement four years ago.

The shock assertion even caught Dr Chan Kin-man, one of the founders, by surprise, and he said he doubted it to be true, although he did not rule out it completely when asked about it at West Kowloon Court.

“I cannot rule it out completely,” he said. “Though the possibility would not be high.”

The claim was further evidence that the 2014 pro-democracy protests – despite its largely unified front – was punctuated with arguments between student leaders and the protest’s founders, the two driving forces at the time.

Although the Occupy movement was suggested by university scholars Chan, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming in 2013, it did not go according to plan. The court previously heard that it was declared prematurely, alongside an ongoing student-led protest in Admiralty.

The student-led protest – equally sparked by the frustration against Beijing’s restrictive proposals in relation to the election of Hong Kong’s leader – first emerged on September 26, 2014.

Two days later, Tai announced the start of the Occupy movement after some of the leaders were arrested.

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

The court had previously been shown video footage of a large crowd of student protesters leaving immediately after Tai’s announcement, with some accusing the three founders of hijacking their protest.

While Chan, who has been testifying since last Thursday, said they had asked for student leaders’ blessing before transforming it into the Occupy movement, barrister Hectar Pun Hei SC painted a different picture.

As the barrister for Cheung, he got his turn to cross-examine Chan.

The barrister said the student leaders had indeed asked for the trio’s help at the time, but what they wanted was purely logistical support, including manpower and supplies. They did not mean to ask them to declare their Occupy protest, said Pun, who called it a “misunderstanding”.

Philip Dykes SC, for another student leader, Eason Chung Yiu-wa, said that was why students beside the founders looked surprised – as video footage had suggested – when the founders declared their movement.

Director of Public Prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin SC, asked Chan if he was surprised by the assertion of lawyers for his co-accused, and insisted there was no such room for misunderstanding, as some protesters at the scene were clapping when Tai made the announcement.

Chan disagreed, and said people would interpret events differently.

Chan, 59, Tai, 54, and Chu, 74, have pleaded not guilty to three joint charges: conspiracy to cause public nuisance; inciting others to cause public nuisance; and inciting others to incite others to cause public nuisance.

Lawmakers Shiu Ka-chun, 49, and Tanya Chan, 47, and student leaders Cheung, 24, and Cheung, 26, have all denied the two incitement charges. So has Raphael Wong Ho-ming, 30, vice-chairman of League of Social Democrats.

Former Democratic Party Lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, 63, has denied one count of incitement to commit public nuisance.

The trial continues before Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng.