Nine Occupy leaders will learn their fate in April as incitement trial is adjourned
- Defence lawyers made their closing arguments Thursday, saying the public would have tolerated the protest because of the importance of its cause
- Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng says the court will review all the evidence before delivering its verdict
Nine pro-democracy leaders accused of bringing the heart of Hong Kong to a standstill with the 2014 Occupy protests will learn their fate in the Spring.
West Kowloon Court adjourned to April 9 next year for the verdict, after defence lawyers on Thursday made their final bid to persuade the presiding judge that the civil disobedience movement four years ago was likely to be tolerated by the public because of its cause.
Robert Pang Yiu-hung SC told Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng that the more people taking part in a protest, the more people would have tolerance for it. He also urged the court to take into consideration the protesters at the time were fighting for a fundamental right, the right to elect their leaders.
The 79-day pro-democracy movement – which attracted enough people to block major roads in Admiralty – therefore would not have caused a public nuisance as the prosecutors have been suggesting during the 18-day trial, he said.
But director of public prosecution David Leung Cheuk-yin SC asked the court to focus squarely on the magnitude of the obstruction.
Judge Chan adjourned the case to next year, saying the court would take time to review all the evidence, including hours of video footage, citations of court cases from around the world, and the court testimonies of 14 witnesses.
The protests, which began on September 28, 2014, were sparked by protesters’ frustration with a restrictive proposal for the city’s leadership election suggested by Beijing at the time.
Prosecutors have argued during the trial that the nine – including three founders Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Dr Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – incited protesters to block roads, causing public nuisance, in a bid to pressure the government into responding to their political demands.
Tai, Chan and Chu have denied three joint counts against them: 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.
Five other defendants, legislators Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, former student leader Tommy Cheung Sau-yin, Chung and Raphael Wong Ho-ming, vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats, have all denied two incitement charges.
Former Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat has denied one count of incitement to commit public nuisance.
The nine called on the public to continue their fight for greater democracy in the city after the court hearing. They were surrounded by their supporters who held up their yellow umbrellas, the symbol which then gave the protest the name “umbrella movement”.
Tai, a law scholar from the University of Hong Kong, said: “If there was an offence for giving hope, I would continue to commit that offence.”
An outgoing sociologist from Chinese University, Chan said the protest was protected by constitutional rights, and that the government had a part to play in people taking to the streets.
Chung, a student leader at the time of the protests, said their action had gone beyond that court of law, and that only history could try them.