Occupy Central

Pro-democracy activists plan National Day march amid calls to sack Occupy co-founder Benny Tai

Thousands of pro-establishment protesters gathered on Sunday to demand the sacking of the law scholar who co-founded the 2014 Occupy movement

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 8:45pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 10:48pm

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy bloc vowed to launch a black T-shirt march on National Day in protest over “political persecution” by the “authoritarian government”, while thousands of pro-establishment protesters gathered on Sunday to demand the sacking of a law scholar who co-founded the 2014 Occupy movement.

The divergent calls came weeks after the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the government’s bid to send 16 activists involved in two separate protests to jail, including three Occupy student leaders.

Another nine key leaders of the Occupy movement, including legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting, is also set to face a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday.

Protesters who stormed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council given jail terms after prosecutors pushed for tougher sentences

Tai, alongside the other two co-founders of the movement, Dr Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, face three charges relating to public nuisance over their roles in the civil disobedience movement.

“Hong Kong is getting more akin to Singapore, which is using the name of the rule of law to repress [the opposition] in a bid to uphold the dictatorship of the leaders,” Tai said at a public forum on Sunday. “Different political groups would launch a march on October 1 to oppose the authoritarian government ... We refuse to stay silent.”

Avery Ng Man-yuen, the chairman of the League of Social Democrats, also urged Hongkongers to join the upcoming black T-shirt protest in support of the jailed activists.

“We hope the political prisoners would realise from news that the Hongkongers who protest against the authoritarian governance in black have outnumbered those officials who wave their national flags ... on the National Day,” he said.

Meanwhile, thousands of people joined a rally to demand the University of Hong Kong sack Tai, whom they claimed should be held responsible for the social unrest in recent years because of his calls for “lawbreaking under the name of civil disobedience”.

Lawyers confident three jailed Hong Kong student protesters will receive leave to appeal against prison terms

Organisers of the 2.5-hour rally at Tamar Park – led by pro-Beijing legislator Junius Ho Kwan-yiu – claimed there were 4,000 people, while police put the estimate at 2,100.

Shouts of “Right a wrong, get rid of Benny Tai” echoed in the adjacent Legislative Council and government headquarters complex as guests took to the stage to address the crowds, condemning Tai for “corrupting” the students’ minds. They said if Tai was not fired, the consequences would be dire because young people would buy into his theory of using illegal means to get what they want.

Ho had previously organised an online petition against Tai and had collected more than 80,000 signatures. He had asked the university to launch an inquiry into Tai’s conduct.

In response, Tai said he respected Ho’s freedom of speech, but would leave it to the public to judge whether the Beijing-loyalist has crossed the moral bottom line of society.

Lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, representing the education sector, urged the group led by Ho to stop exerting pressure on HKU and respect its institutional autonomy, as the school has already stated it would handle the matter through established procedures.

Civic Party barrister Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee also revealed in the forum that the Imprisoned Activists Support Fund is nearing its goal to raise HK$4 million to back the 16 recently jailed activists and the families they left behind.