Hong Kong judge rules against ‘umbrella protest’ leaders: ‘Civil disobedience is not a defense’

by WorldTribune Staff, April 9, 2019

A group of activists who protested what they said was the Chinese government’s attack on Hong Kong’s autonomy were found guilty on April 9 of public nuisance crimes for organizing pro-democracy rallies.

‘Umbrella Movement’ protest in Hong Kong in November 2014. / Photo by Pasu Au Yeung

Those convicted included three activists seen as leaders of the pro-democracy “Umbrella Movement”, sociology professor Chan Kin-man, law professor Benny Tai, and Baptist Minister Chu Yiu-Ming. They could be jailed for up to seven years for their part in organizing the “umbrella protests” which took place between September and December in 2014.

In their defense, the activists said they were using the protests as a last resort, in the tradition of using civil disobedience to inspire change.

District Judge Johnny Chan noted that through legal precedents, the concept of civil disobedience is “recognized in Hong Kong,” but said that “Even if a defendant is prosecuted for an offense committed in the course of civil disobedience, civil disobedience is not a defense in law.”

Related: Hong Kong’s ‘Umbrella movement’ against Chinese Communist Party refuses to die, February 6, 2018

Also found guilty were former student leaders Tommy Cheung Sau-yin and Eason Chung Yiu-wa, along with lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, League of Social Democrats vice chairman Raphael Wong, and former Democratic Party legislator Lee Wing-tat.

The activists were found guilty of conspiracy to commit public nuisance. Along with their co-defendants, all but one of them were found guilty of either inciting public nuisance or “incitement to incite” others, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

Judge Chan said umbrella protest organizers were naive to think they could change the Chinese government’s mind “with a click of fingers” – and that they were also naive to think they could easily disperse a protest that quickly grew to tens of thousands of people.

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