Thursday, 27 August 2015

Further Clampdown on Occupy Leaders

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow enter Wan Chai police station
Eleven months after the incident, three students were charged today for starting the 79-day Occupy Movement.

Scholarism leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Federation of Students secretary general Nathan Law Kwun-chung and his predecessor Alex Chow Yong-kang went to Wan Chai police headquarters to plead not guilty.

Wong was charged with taking part and inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly; Chow was charged for taking part in an unlawful assembly, and Law for inciting others to take part in it.

The trio were part of a group who broke into Civic Square at Hong Kong government headquarters last September 26. That incident was precipitated by students who had staged a class boycott for several days outside the building protesting Beijing's white paper on election reform, where all candidates would be vetoed by a 1,200-member pro-China committee.

The eruption of tear gas sparked the occupation of Admiralty
After the young people broke into Civic Square, police surrounded them and then two days later, members of the public (myself included) went there to demand that the students be released. Hours later the police shot 87 canisters of tear gas that sparked the occupation of Admiralty, Mongkok, Causeway Bay and briefly Tsim Sha Tsui.

"'Civic Square' had been a place where we gathered freely to protest against the national education curriculum and the free television license decision. We were only trying to get into that place... So this is a political prosecution," Wong said. "The break in was the best decision I made in the last four years."

Law explained the reasoning behind pleading not guilty. "We are jumping into this procedure today to expose [the injustice] in it. When the law is used to suppress the people, we will not bow down... and show remorse or apologize just to get a milder penalty," he said.

Wong's lawyer, Michael Vidler, is considering asking the court to end the legal proceedings permanently because it was wrong to prosecute 11 months after the incident.

Exactly. Why is this happening now? Is someone or a group trying to get revenge for the outright rejection of the political reform package, after several pro-Beijing lawmakers walked out of the Legislative Council minutes before the vote?

Why weren't these young people prosecuted as soon as the 79-day protest was over and they willingly gave themselves up at that time?

Benny Tai faces punishment at HKU for his part in Occupy
Meanwhile three academics at the University of Hong Kong, including Benny Tai Yiu-ting, faces punishment from the university for receiving donations and not following the rules.

The punishments were proposed by HKU senior management, that many see as retaliation against Tai, and HKU Public Opinion Programme director Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, and Humanities professor Daniel Chua. Others see the punishments as a way for the trio to avoid outright dismissal.

Tai, an associate law professor, faces a three-year ban on assuming managerial posts, receiving donations and supervising researchers at HKU. Chua faces the same three penalties as Tai, but for a shorter period, while Chung is banned from receiving donations for a shorter period.

All three declined to comment citing confidentiality, and it seems they want to read the fine print to get a better understanding of what possible punishments they are facing.

It's interesting these developments are happening now, one month to the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Movement. Surely it's an attempt to preempt some kind of event happening a month from now, but is it really necessary?

After Occupy was shut down eventually in mid-December, the momentum and appetite to continue the protest significantly died down, mostly because it ended so ugly with violent clashes with police.

While Wong, Shum, Law, Tai and Chung gained notoriety for being the faces of the movement, they are already paying the price for sticking their necks out. Chung received a number of death threats, and what are the chances of someone employing Wong after he graduates from university?

Surely these are punishment enough?

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