20 Hong Kong protesters to face punishment for contempt of court in Occupy case
Nine found guilty for obstructing bailiffs at Mong Kok rally site and will join 11 others in facing possible prison terms
Nine Hongkongers were convicted of criminal contempt of court on Friday in the latest round of prosecutions over the 2014 Occupy protests, and will face punishment along with 11 others, including jailed student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung.
The High Court will sentence all 20 at a later date over the common law offence, which carries no maximum sentence but can range from a fine to a jail term, lawyers said.
Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai rejected the defence claim that the nine did not obstruct a court-ordered street clearance in Mong Kok in 2014, during 79 days of road blockades in the name of civil disobedience to fight for greater democracy.
Twenty people were arrested for refusing to leave when bailiffs acting on a court order cleared the protest site on Nathan Road on November 26, 2014. Taxi and minibus drivers secured the court order, complaining that the protests blocking one of Kowloon’s busiest thoroughfares were affecting their livelihood.
The Department of Justice then started contempt of court proceedings against those arrested. Eleven of them, including Wong, who is currently serving a six-month jail sentence for another Occupy-related protest, admitted to the charge in July. But nine, including jailed political activist Raphael Wong Ho-ming, contested the charge and were put on trial.
During the trial, they insisted they had either failed to hear the announcements asking them to leave the site or were in the process of leaving when they were arrested.
But the judge disagreed. In a 44-page written judgment, he noted that the clearance operation had been publicised and it was “highly unlikely that any citizen of Hong Kong would misapprehend the situation”. Those who remained at the site knew precisely what they were doing, he said, and this caused “interference with the due administration of justice”.
In particular, the judge did not accept claims from defendant Mak Ying-sheung that she was an intern reporter covering the protest for online news portal Independent Media. The judge pointed out that he had seen video footage of her chanting alongside other protesters, putting an “extra burden” on officers doing their duty at the scene.
“This case is not about the right or wrong of the Occupy movement,” Justice Chan said.
With the verdict,Wong could face an extension of current his six-month sentence, which already bars him from running in Legislative Council elections for five years.
Wong turned 21 on Friday, and will be transferred from a correctional facility to an adult jail. He said “thank you” to his supporters who chanted “happy birthday” outside the courtroom before the session began. They sang a birthday song for him when the hearing ended.
Wong and two other student leaders of the Occupy campaign, Alex Chow Yong-kang and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, were packed off to prison in August. The trio were convicted of storming into the forecourt of the government headquarters two days before the Occupy protests shifted into full gear on September 28, 2014.
They were originally spared jail by a lower court, but prosecutors hauled them back to an appeal court, arguing that a lenient sentence would send the wrong message to the public. Separately, 13 other activists were also given jail terms for storming the Legco complex in June 2014 to oppose the government development plans for the northeast New Territories.
It led to critics decrying the jailings as political persecution, which Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor rejected as “unfounded”. Others also warned that the jailings would worsen the trust deficit between the city’s youth and the government.
Accusations of political motivation in activist jailings ‘totally unfounded’, Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam says
In her policy Address on Wednesday, Lam stressed her commitment to involving the city’s youth in public affairs. She said her administration would appoint more young people to various government advisory bodies so that “the voices of young people [can] be heard at senior levels of the government.”
Student activist Lester Shum, who is among the group of 20, on Friday said he was prepared to go to jail but expected a short imprisonment.
Watch: Activists Chan Po-ying, Chiu Chi-sum and Lester Shum protest against the “political persecution” of Occupy protesters
Meanwhile, local group Socialist Action announced that lawmakers and activists around the world had taken part in its “Stop Repression in Hong Kong” campaign, to mark the first anniversary of the disqualification of two pro-independence lawmakers and express concerns over the jailing of 16 young political activists, including Joshua Wong, in August.
On Thursday, they staged demonstrations outside the Chinese embassies or the Hong Kong government’s trade offices in 22 cities.
The 11 who pleaded guilty in the contempt case:
Jason Szeto Tse-long
Joshua Wong Chi-fung
The nine who denied guilt but were ultimately convicted:
Raphael Wong Ho-ming