The unprecedented Hong Kong government crackdown on the pro-democracy movement continues apace, and January is set to be its busiest month yet
An overview of January court dates in Hong Kong government prosecutions of pro-democracy leaders and activists: four trials definitely, six trials probably, 56 defendants
LAST UPDATED on 29 May 2018 (Updates on the individual cases appear at the end of the case descriptions below.) This article will no longer be updated. For the most up-to-date information on cases mentioned here, go to here.
While this piece began at the start of January as an overview of January trials, it now continues to track Hong Kong government legal cases against pro-democracy leaders and activists and is regularly updated. The original article can be viewed on Hong Kong Free Press.
Please see the end of the article for tables providing overviews of January, February, March, April and May prosecutions. In January, the final total of defendants on trial was 43; in February, 27; in March, 46; in April, 27, and in May, 22.
Since the 2014 Umbrella Movement, the Hong Kong government, under the influence if not direction of the Communist Party, has carried out a wide-ranging and unprecedented attack on the pro-democracy movement.
This attack has taken several forms, including the suddenly imposed and arbitrary requirement of new loyalty pledges in candidacy applications to run for public office and the Electoral Affairs Commission’s arbitrary disqualification of potential candidates on political grounds; the denial of public space to certain political groups including venues for demonstrations and New Year’s market stalls on spurious grounds of “public safety”; and the refusal to legally register political groups such as Demosistō.
But at the heart of the government strategy to keep pro-democracy groups on the defensive, to damage and perhaps even destroy some of them, and to intimidate ordinary people into not participating in the movement are the 40 legal cases (both criminal prosecutions and lawsuits) it has brought against 26 pro-democracy leaders as well as prosecutions of dozens of grassroots activists.
As of 13 April 2018, of the 40 cases brought against 26 pro-democracy leaders since 2014, 22 cases have concluded, resulting in 13 convictions, 6 acquittals, 1 prosecution thrown out by the judge, and 6 disqualifications from Legco. (Note: The discrepancy has to do with difference between number of cases and number of counts per case.) 6 appeals are on-going, 5 by defendants, 1 by the government. There have been 2 prison sentences. 3 prison sentences were overturned upon appeal. Trials of 17 defendants are on-going. The trial of 1 defendant has not yet begun.
In addition to the cases against leaders, dozens of grassroots activists have also been prosecuted. Particularly striking is the government’s aggressive legal strategy to appeal original non-custodial sentences. Upon appeal, it has succeeded in getting 16 peaceful demonstrators sent to prison for terms ranging from six to 13 months, all for the nonviolent offense of unlawful assembly, conviction of which would, up until these precedent-setting cases, be normally punished with a non-custodial sentence of community service (which 15 of the 16 originally received), or a fine, or a prison term either suspended (which one of the 16 received) or ranging from three weeks to, at most, three months. Since being sent to prison, all 16 convicts have applied to the Court of Final Appeal to hear their appeals. The CFA granted bail to all 16 appellants pending appeal. In February, the CFA overturned the prison sentences of Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow. The other 13 will have their application for leave to appeal heard by the CFA in March.
January was the busiest month yet in court cases related to the crackdown, with, in all, 43 defendants. Four separate trials of 21 defendants began. Three appeals of prison sentences were heard by the Court of Final Appeal. Sixteen already-convicted defendants were sentenced.
Among the defendants are two current Legco members, three former Legco members, six leaders of political parties, and nine leaders of the Umbrella Movement as well as well-known and highly respected activists. By the time the trials conclude, it is not inconceivable that many who are at the heart of the pro-democracy movement could be sentenced to many years in prison.
As never before, the government is using the courts to criminalize and delegitimize the pro-democracy movement. Some of these cases have received substantial media attention, but more attention should be given to the overall pattern, which in terms of the number and variety of cases and the defendants involved clearly indicates a coherent and sustained political attack.
Amongst observers and many Hong Kong people themselves, there is a complacent assumption that Hong Kong has rule of law, and therefore it is also assumed that whatever occurs, however much one may disagree with it, is done according to the rule of law. But what happens to the rule of law when an unelected (and therefore illegitimate and illegal) government uses the law toward political ends, in particular, to attack its opponents? We recognize this because it is, after all, standard practice on the mainland, but is it starting to happen in Hong Kong too?
In democratic societies, it is a custom of political culture for the government to avoid, if possible, prosecuting political opponents. Many countries have laws granting legal immunity to members of parliament for exactly that reason — to avoid a conflict of interest on the part of the government. Of course, that does not mean that politicians and political activists should never be prosecuted for clearly identifiable, egregious and serious crimes, but at the very least, a democratic government should do its best to ensure that any such prosecutions are entirely necessary and untainted by political calculation.
In a new book, How Democracies Die, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt identify two key killers, one of which is the “unrestrained exercise of legal authority”. They say, “The idea that political opponents are legitimate, and that governmental powers must be handled with restraint, is the glue that keeps a democracy intact.” Of course, Hong Kong does not now and has never had democracy, but it has had fairly robust rule of law, a crucial safeguard of civil liberties, and this now appears to be threatened by the Communist Party and Hong Kong government’s unrestrained exercise of legal authority.
It is important to remember that, strictly and ultimately speaking, Hong Kong does not exist under rule of law but under the rule of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, which calls itself the law. Another way of putting this is that rule of law in Hong Kong, such as it exists, exists at the sufferance of a Party which is, according to the constitution of the People’s Republic of China, above the law, a seeming paradox if ever there was one. In this sense, rule of law in Hong Kong is exceedingly fragile, even more so than elsewhere, and is damaged when the government declares itself, on the one hand, above the law, while on the other hand, attacking its political opponents under the guise of rule of law.
It is not just the large number of legal cases brought against pro-democracy leaders and activists but also a string of other legal abuses, beginning in 2014 with the denial of genuine universal suffrage in defiance of the Basic Law and international law. Then there was the 2016 National People’s Congress Standing Committee interpretation of the Basic Law on oath-taking, issued in the middle of a trial to disqualify two pro-democracy Legco members at the Hong Kong High Court in order to force the judge to rule in its favor and then applied retroactively to the cases of disqualification of four additional pro-democracy Legco members. In 2017, the NPCSC unilaterally inserted into the Basic Law a new mainland law criminalizing disrespect for the PRC anthem. Most recently, the NPCSC arbitrarily declared, with no legal argument, that the proposed enforcement of mainland law at the new Hong Kong express rail terminus is in line with both the Chinese constitution and the Basic Law and that it is legal by virtue of the NPCSC declaring it so, even though Article 18 of the Basic Law clearly states that mainland laws must not apply in Hong Kong unless they are specifically listed elsewhere in the Basic Law.
Again, what must be emphasized is the clear pattern of the manipulation of the law toward political ends, and just how unprecedented this pattern is. Yes, the NPCSC has interfered repeatedly in Hong Kong in the past, but never in so many cases in such a short period of time.
Some argue that the fact that the government has successfully prosecuted eight police officers for assault during the Umbrella Movement as well as the former Chief Executive Donald Tsang indicates the impartiality of the system. This is true to an extent. There are prosecutors of integrity who have some discretionary power, and judges rule according to the law. But it’s worth remembering that it took incessant activism over months and years to prod the government to prosecute the officers in the face of the intransigence of the police force, and that pressure probably would have not succeeded if not for the fact that all eight officers were caught on video committing the offenses for which they were eventually convicted. And the fact remains that the prosecutions of government opponents are far greater in number and much wider ranging.
Some argue that the large increase in the number of political opponents facing legal proceedings brought by the government is no more than the unavoidable fall-out from the Umbrella Movement, but in fact, only 15 of the 39 legal cases against pro-democracy leaders are related to offenses allegedly committed during the movement.
Others have said that political opponents have increasingly adopted more aggressive measures that push at and even cross the bounds of the lawful. While there has been some increase in direct action since 2014, none of the 24 cases unrelated to the Umbrella Movement involve direct action.
In fact, what is most striking is that 12 of those cases are related to the actions of pro-democracy Legco members in their capacity as elected representatives: Six pro-democracy Legco members — Baggio Leung, Yau Wai-ching, Lau Siu-lai, Long Hair, Edward Yiu, and Nathan Law — were disqualified for adding to or changing their oaths of office. One, Cheng Chung-tai, was convicted of desecrating the PRC and HK flags in Legco for turning upside down mini-flags on the desks of pro-Communist Party representatives. Two disqualified Legco representatives, Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching, are on trial for trying to barge into a Legco meeting from which the Legco President had barred them. One, Long Hair, was acquitted of misconduct in public office for failing to declare a donation. Long Hair will also stand trial for contempt of Legco for snatching a pile of documents off the desk of a government representative in Legco. And one, Kenneth Leung, is being sued for defamation by former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Prior to these prosecutions, there was a long-standing consensus that disciplinary matters fell within the purview of Legco. That has changed. Actions by elected Legco representatives of which the government disapproves are now regularly prosecuted in a court of law.
One should not forget that the underlying cause of the chronic political crisis facing Hong Kong is that the Communist Party and the Hong Kong government have not implemented genuine universal suffrage and thus stand in non-compliance with the Basic Law and international law. When the government itself is illegal and above the law, what do you do? Thus, the sorry irony of dozens of pro-democracy leaders and activists being paraded through the courts as defendants when what they were doing was fighting for a basic human right, which is denied not only to them but to all Hong Kong people. The most egregious breach of law, the denial of genuine universal suffrage, meanwhile, goes entirely unpunished. Indeed, neither the Communist Party nor the Hong Kong government has announced any plans to address this twenty-year delinquency. They can prosecute as many people as they like, but there will be no peace or justice in Hong Kong until that occurs.
Overview of January legal cases
Most of these trials span many months from the time of the initial hearing to their conclusion, some even years, especially those including appeals. Some of the defendants, such as the Umbrella Movement 9, were charged years after their alleged crimes were committed. All of the trials cost the defendants significant time and money. The government strategy is that, if it cannot get convictions, at least it can keep the defendants pinned down in defending themselves for lengthy periods of time instead of doing what they would otherwise be doing, fighting for justice.
Thursday, January 4
Start of the trial proper of Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching along with three of their assistants, Yeung Lai-hong, Chung Suet-ying, and Cheung Tsz-lung, all of Youngspiration, for unlawful assembly, with an alternative charge of forcible entry
On Tuesday, January 2, Kowloon City Magistrates Court judge Wong Sze-lai ruled after preliminary hearings that the five have a “case to answer”, meaning there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. The charges relate to an incident in the Legislative Council on 2 November 2016. Leung and Yau were newly-elected Legco members at the time. They attempted, with the help of their assistants, to enter a Legco chamber where the rest of Legco was meeting. The President of Legco had barred them from the chamber after having refused to allow them to retake their oaths of office. Before that, the President had granted them a retake but then rescinded the promise after the Hong Kong government announced it would take the two to court to strip them of their seats. Security guards, on orders of the Legco President, prevented Leung and Yau from entering the chamber where the rest of Legco was meeting. Days later, in the midst of the government court case against the two over the taking of their oaths, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee issued an interpretation of the Hong Kong Basic Law on oath-taking that effectively compelled the High Court to disqualify Leung and Yau from Legco, which it subsequently did. Their seats have remained vacant for 14 months now and will be filled in a by-election on 11 March. Legco has also demanded of Leung and Yau reimbursement of over HK$933,000 paid out to them while they were Legco members (on the grounds that, according to the High Court ruling, they never were) and is now suing them to recover the money, which they claim was spent on legitimate expenses while they were Legco members. UPDATE: On Friday, January 5, the trial was adjourned until February 28, and then went until March 2. The verdict is scheduled for May 11.
Tuesday, January 9
Beginning of four days of pre-trial hearings in the case of the “Umbrella Movement 9”, Chu Yiu-ming, Chan Kin-man, and Benny Tai (all of Occupy Central with Love and Peace), Lee Wing-tat (Democratic Party), Shiu Ka-chun (Legco member representing the Social Welfare functional constituency), Tanya Chan (Legco member from Civic Party), Raphael Wong (League of Social Democrats), and Tommy Cheung and Eason Chung (both of Hong Kong Federation of Students), all charged with various counts of “conspiracy to incite public nuisance” and “inciting public nuisance” in relation to the start of the Umbrella Movement on 28 September 2014.
This case is basically intended to place legal blame on these nine for starting the Umbrella Movement, an utterly ridiculous notion to anyone who saw how it actually unfolded. More than three years after the end of the Umbrella Movement, the trial proper has yet to begin. The government only brought charges last year, and it is as yet unclear why it resorted to “inciting public nuisance” charges rarely used in Hong Kong.
Five of the defendants are from OCLP and HKFS, two of the leading groups of the Umbrella Movement, but strikingly, what both groups have in common is that on the night of 28 September 2014, rather than “incite”, they actually called on demonstrators to leave and go home, fearing that the police would escalate from teargas to the use of live ammunition. Of the other four, three, Lee Wing-tat, Raphael Wong and Shiu Ka-chun, appear to have played exceedingly negligible roles, while Tanya Chan repeatedly beseeched demonstrators to be calm, rational and peaceful and avoid taking impulsive actions which they might later regret — pretty much the opposite of “incitement”.
The Umbrella Movement was started by the people, without a leader. It would be hard to find a single demonstrator who could report having participated due to having been “incited” to do so by any of the nine defendants. Ironically, the main “incitement” was the eight-hour-long teargas attack by Hong Kong police on Hong Kong citizens, to which people responded with spontaneous outrage, filling the streets. But no member of either the Hong Kong government or police is on trial for that; indeed, no credible account of the decision-making behind it has been offered, no officially sanctioned investigation into it has ever been conducted, and no one has been held accountable.
In a sense, with this case, the Hong Kong government is indirectly putting the people of Hong Kong on trial for “public nuisance”, since we are the “public nuisance” that these nine allegedly incited. Also striking is that of the approximately 1,000 people arrested and 220 prosecuted in relation to the Umbrella Movement, not a single one has been arrested or prosecuted for “public nuisance”. So the Hong Kong government is prosecuting these nine for inciting an offense which it has not legally demonstrated was committed in even a single case.
Two of the defendants, Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, are current Legco members. One, Tommy Cheung, has declared his candidacy to fill the Legco seat vacated by the disqualification of Baggio Leung. Those convicted of crimes punishable by more than three months in prison are ineligible to run for Legco or serve as Legco members, so the retention of the seats of Chan and Shiu potentially hinge on the outcome of this case. Raphael Wong is currently on bail pending appeal of his 13-month sentence for unlawful assembly in connection with a June 2014 protest at Legco and has served a prison sentence of four months and 15 days in relation to the 26 November 2014 police clearance of the Mong Kok occupation during the Umbrella Movement. UPDATE: On Wednesday, January 10, after two days of the scheduled 4, the trial was adjourned until February 13. The defense asked the judge to dismiss the charges of “inciting others to incite others to public nuisance” against Tai, Chan and Chu. On February 13, the judge rejected the request to dismiss “inciting to incite charges”. The trial proper was scheduled to begin on November 19, more than four years after the incident in connection to which they’re charged and one year and eight months after they were charged.
Monday, January 15
Pre-trial review in prosecution of Leung Kwok-hung/Long Hair for contempt of the Legislative Council
This is the third case Long Hair has faced since the Umbrella Movement. In the first, he was acquitted of acquitted of misconduct in public office on 31 July 2017 over an alleged failure to declare a HK$250,000 donation from Jimmy Lai. Long Hair had already passed a disciplinary hearing in Legco when the government gratuitously prosecuted him. Thus, this is yet another case where the Communist Party and Hong Kong government have intruded into what customarily has been Legco’s territory, dealing internally with disciplinary matters. Instead, actions in Legco have become criminal matters or to be otherwise tried in court. Indeed, all three of the government’s trials against Long Hair had to do with his actions in Legco while an elected Legco member. The second was his disqualification from Legco over his taking of the oath after getting re-elected to his seat in the September 2016 Legco elections. Long Hair held a yellow umbrella while taking the oath and afterwards tore up a facsimile of the 31 August 2014 National People’s Congress Standing Committee decision which effectively denied genuine universal suffrage to Hong Kong. He had done similar things in Legco in the past without any retribution, but this time the government got him disqualified from Legco in the Hong Kong High Court using an interpretation of the Basic Law by the very same NPCSC which was then applied retroactively to his action, in direct contradiction of common law principles against retroactive application of the law. He is appealing the disqualification at the Court of Final Appeal. The date of the appeal has not yet been set. This third case is related to Long Hair snatching documents from a government minister’s desk during a meeting in Legco. It is precedent-setting in that it is the first time that the Powers and Privileges Ordinance is being invoked to prosecute a Legco member. The pre-trial hearing should take three or four days with the trial proper beginning on 20 February. Update: On March 5, the magistrate ruled that Long Hair could not be tried for contempt of the Legislative Council under the Legco Ordinance as he was a Legco member, and the charge of contempt was to be applied only to non-Legco members. This means that the government failed in both of its post-Umbrella Movement prosecutions of Long Hair, both having to do with conduct related to his role as a Legco member. It did, however, succeed in having him disqualified from Legco, a ruling that Long Hair is appealing, though no court date for the appeal has yet been set. On 16 March, the government said it would appeal the magistrate’s decision to throw out the case. The appeal will take place at the Court of Appeal at a date to be announced.
Tuesday, January 16
Appeal hearing of Joshua Wong (Demosistō), Nathan Law (Demosistō), and Alex Chow at the Court of Final Appeal over their sentencing to six, eight and seven months in prison respectively
Wong and Chow were convicted of unlawful assembly and Law of inciting unlawful assembly in relation to the occupation of Civic Square on 26 September 2014, which lead to the start of the Umbrella Movement two days later. All three are out on bail pending appeal.
Law became the youngest ever candidate elected to Legco in September 2016. He was one of four pro-democracy Legco members disqualified in July 2017. Because of his eight-month prison sentence, he is ineligible to run again for five years, depriving him of his political rights. Wong is awaiting sentencing for contempt of court in relation to the 26 November 2014 police clearance of the Mong Kok occupation during the Umbrella Movement.
Chow’s prosecution is peculiar. Law was prosecuted for calling on people to enter the closed square on the evening of 26 September. Wong was acquitted of that but convicted for entering the square, though he was almost immediately arrested and taken away. Chow, on the other hand, was among a little over 60 demonstrators who occupied the square for the whole night and into the next morning, when they were all removed and arrested by police. But he is the only occupier amongst those 60-plus to be prosecuted. It is hard to avoid the impression that he has been selectively prosecuted because he was a movement leader. UPDATE: At the end of the appeal hearing, the Chief Justice announced the verdict would be announced at a later, yet-to-be-determined date. On February 6, the CFA ruled that harsh new sentencing guidelines imposed by the Court of Appeal were justified, but that they should not be applied retroactively to the current case. The magistrate who originally handed down the community service / suspended sentences had correctly followed the existing sentencing guidelines, and therefore the prison sentences were overturned. While the three were set free and the case was finally concluded more than three years after the incident in question and two years after the trial began, the ruling was ominous insofar as it endorsed harsher prison sentences in the future for convictions on unlawful assembly charges where “violence” or “disorder” existed, apparently regardless of whether or not the violence or disorder were committed by the defendants.
Wednesday, January 17
Sentencing hearing for 16 demonstrators found liable for contempt of court in relation to the 26 November 2014 police clearance of the Mong Kok occupation during the Umbrella Movement: Joshua Wong, Lester Shum and Raphael Wong will be sentenced along with Chau Wan-ying, Chu Wai-lun, Chu Pui-yan, Kwok Yeung-yuk, Chiu Chi-sum, Chan Po-ying, Cheung Kai-hong, Kwan Siu-wang, Hung Cheuk-lun, Fung Kai-hei, Choi Tat-shing, Jason Szeto Tse-long, and Mak Ying-sheung.
The sentencing hearing was initially held in December but adjourned before sentencing actually occurred. These 16 were tried together with four others. Those four, Cheung Kai-yin, Ma Po-kwan, Wong Lai-wan, and Yeung Ho-wah were sentenced separately on 28 November 2017 to one-month suspended jail terms and a HK$10,000 fine each. Eleven of the 20 defendants admitted liability for contempt of court, including Joshua and Lester; nine, including Raphael, did not, but all were found liable. Altogether 20 defendants were tried. Raphael and Joshua have already been sentenced to 13 and six months in prison respectively in other cases and are currently out on bail while awaiting their appeals. Joshua’s takes place the day before this, on 16 January. A full account of the Mong Kok clearance. UPDATE: Joshua Wong was sentenced to 3 months in prison, Raphael Wong to 4 months and 15 days, both sentences to be served consecutively to their other prison sentences, a total of 9 months in prison for Joshua and 17 months and 15 days for Raphael. The 16 others were given suspended prison sentences ranging from 6 weeks to 2 months and fines ranging from HK$10,000 to 15,000, with the exception of three or four who were not fined due to financial hardship: Chau Wan-ying, one month in prison suspended for 12 months; Chu Wai-lun, one month in prison suspended for 12 months, HK$10,000 fine; Chu Pui-yan, six weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, $15,000 fine; Kwok Yeung-yuk, six weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, $15,000 fine; Lester Shum, one month in prison suspended for 12 months, $10,000 fine; Chiu Chi-sum, two months in prison suspended for 18 months, $15,000 fine; Chan Po-ying, two months in prison suspended for 18 months, $15,000 fine; Cheung Kai-hong, one month in prison suspended for 12 months, $15,000 fine; Cheung Kai-hong, one month in prison suspended for 12 months, $10,000 fine; Kwan Siu-wang, six weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, $15,000 fine; Hung Cheuk-lun, six weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, $15,000 fine; Fung Kai-hei, six weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, $15,000 fine, Choi Tat-shing, one month in prison suspended for 12 months, $15,000 fine; Jason Szeto Tsz-long, six weeks in prison suspended for 18 months, $10,000 fine; Mak Ying-sheung, six weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, $15,000 fine. On 23 January, the Court of Appeal granted bail to Joshua Wong but denied bail to Raphael Wong, sending him back to prison. His appeal hearing was held on March 5. On March 23, the Court of Appeal rejected his appeal and sent him back to prison to serve out his sentence. On April 16, he was released after having completed his sentence (with an automatic time reduction), and was granted bail for his other prison sentence pending a September appeal at the Court of Final Appeal. Joshua Wong was granted bail pending appeal and is currently awaiting a court date.
The Court of Final Appeal has announced that the hearing for applications for leave to appeal of the 13 protesters imprisoned for unlawful assembly in relation to June 2014 protests at Legco against the Northeast New Territories development plan will be scheduled after Wong, Law and Chow’s 16 January hearing. Twelve were sentenced to thirteen months in prison, one to eight months. Ten of these protesters have been released on bail pending their appeal. Three are still in prison. The convicts are Raphael Wong, Willis Ho, Billy Chiu, Chan Pak-san, Chow Koot-yin, David Chu, Yim Man-wah, Ivan Lam, Lau Kwok-leung, Kwok Yiu-cheung, Leung Wing-lai, Leung Hiu-yeung, and Wong Kan-yuen UPDATE: Not held in January as expected, presumably due to the fact that the Court of Final Appeal has not made its ruling in the appeal of Wong, Law and Chow. On 1 February, the CFA rejected the appeal of Leung Hiu-yeung based on a technical ground, though his general application for leave to appeal was yet to be heard. On 7 February, the CFA granted bail pending appeal to the last three still in prison, Yim Man-wa, David Chu, and Leung Wing-lai. The Court of Final Appeal hearing for leave to appeal will take place on 21 March. On 21 March, the CFA granted leave to appeal on grounds one could reasonably argue the sentences constitute “substantial and grave injustice” as a result of the Court of Appeal departing from regular sentencing guidelines at the time and, in the cases of two offenders, that it did not sufficiently take into account the fact that they were under 21. The date of the appeal was set for 7 September.
Monday, January 29
Start of trial of Dickson Chau Ka-faat (League of Social Democrats, obstructing and assaulting police officer), Avery Ng (LSD, two counts of inciting disorderly conduct), Devon Cheng Pui-lun (former Lingnan University Student Union president, unlawful assembly), Derek Lam (former core member of Demosistō, inciting disorderly conduct), Ivan Lam (core member of Demosistō, serving 13 months in prison for unlawful assembly, on bail pending appeal, charged with unlawful assembly in this case), Chau Man-wai (LSD, two counts of unlawful assembly), Sammy Ip (unlawful assembly, obstructing police officer), Lo Tak-cheong (unlawful assembly) for various offenses related to the 6 November 2016 protest against the NPCSC Basic Law interpretation on oath-taking which lead to the disqualification of 6 elected pro-democracy Legco members.
These nine are basically being prosecuted because of the location of the protest, the Central Government Liaison Office, the Communist Party’s headquarters in Hong Kong. This is regarded by the Hong Kong police and government as a highly sensitive area, and police are under strict orders to prevent any kind of disturbance from occurring there. Police tightly regulate passage in front of the building, supposedly in the name of the security but it appears that another objective is to discourage people from protesting there. On the night in question, the police were up to their old antics, preventing demonstrators from passing in front of the building, but on this occasion, the crowd was so large that it began to spill out into the street. Terrible crowd management by police was exacerbated by their overreaction. They arrested Avery Ng. The protest escalated, and for hours, several thousand protesters filled the surrounding streets, blocking traffic for hours. By the middle of the night, police were able to disperse protesters. Only Avery Ng was arrested at the protest. The other eight were arrested at their homes two months later. The unlawful assembly charges are particularly peculiar since there were thousands of demonstrators, all presumably “unlawfully assembled” — so why these five, and why did it take months to arrest them? A full account of the protest. UPDATE: Pre-trial review postponed until 30 January. The trial began on 31 January. Ivan Lam, out on bail pending appeal of his 13-month prison sentence for the NENT protests, and Derek Lam plead guilty. The trial is expected to continue until about a week after Chinese New Year, in late February. The defense moved to have the charges dismissed, but the judge rejected the request. On February 13, the prosecution moved to press more serious charges against Derek Lam and Avery Ng, changing from ‘inciting others to behave in a disorderly manner’ to ‘inciting others to participate in an unlawful assembly’. On March 19, the judge accepted the prosecution’s request. Derek Lam plead guilty to ‘inciting disorderly conduct’ but not guilty to ‘inciting unlawful assembly’. Ivan Lam plead guilty to ‘unlawful assembly’. Avery Ng plead not guilty to two counts of ‘inciting unlawful assembly. The six others plead not guilty to the charges against them. The trial proper is scheduled to begin on July 9 with one day of pre-trial review on April 23.
The Mong Kok 15
On March 16, pre-trial review began for 15 demonstrators charged with contempt of court over the November 26, 2014 police clearance of the Mong Kok occupation during the Umbrella Movement. This is the second large batch of defendants charged with the same crime for the same event, the other being the Mong Kok 20, which included the high-profile pro-democracy leaders Joshua Wong, Raphael Wong and Nathan Law. This batch includes ordinary activists and citizens. Another pre-trial review hearing was held on April 9. An arrest warrant was issued for Lou Tit-man, who failed to appear at pre-trial review. Seven have announced their intention to plead guilty: Chan Wai-fung, Chu Sui-ying, Wong Ka-yee, Kong Kam-to, Chan Ao-tien, Chan Wing-wah and Leung Hon-lam. The remaining seven are Siew Yun-long, Man For-on, Lai Yu-sing, Law Wai-yan, Jeffrey Chan, Yung Yiu-sing, and Chan Pak-tao. One, Man For-on, is applying for legal aid and will have another pre-trial review hearing on April 30. The trial proper is scheduled to begin on May 15.
This civil case against Kenneth Leung has not yet been scheduled. He is the Legco member representing the Accountancy functional constituency and vice-chair of Professional Commons and is being sued by the former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, for defamation in relation to a claim he made that Leung was being investigated by tax authorities abroad.
In addition to the appeal heard in January and the appeal of the NENT 13 scheduled for 7 September 2018, three others have yet to be heard. Long Hair and Lau Siu-lai are appealing their High Court disqualification from Legco. Long Hair’s appeal’s been scheduled for April 2019, and he’s appealing the date on grounds of urgent public interest. Avery Ng is appealing his conviction for assaulting a police officer when he threw a tuna sandwich at former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. It missed and hit the officer instead.
Andy Chan of the Hong Kong National Party has brought an election petition at the High Court against the government (technically, against the Returning Officer of the Electoral Affairs Commission) for his disqualification from candidacy in the 2016 Legco elections. On February 13, his appeal was rejected. Edward Leung has brought another election petition over the same matter. Over a year later, he is still awaiting a response to his Legal Aid application. Agnes Chow has announced she will also file an election petition for her disqualification from March 2018 by-elections on grounds her party supports self-determination, which the government claims is against the Basic Law.