Hong Kong protests: three opposition figures charged over unauthorised rally say they will not admit to allegations

Brian Wong
·3-min read

Three Hong Kong opposition figures charged over an unauthorised rally a day after the enactment of the national security law have indicated they will not admit to the allegations.

The trio was among eight defendants, all from the opposition camp, who faced a total of 17 charges stemming from the July 1 procession on Hong Kong Island, the first large-scale protest after the Beijing-imposed legislation took effect.

Those accused are: former legislators Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, 43, Wu Chi-wai, 58, and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, 64; Eastern district councillors Tsang Kin-shing, 64, Andy Chui Chi-kin, 53, and Lancelot Chan Wing-tai, 56; protest organiser Figo Chan Ho-wun, 26; and activist Tang Sai-lai, 58. They were arrested in the early morning of December 8.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

Although they were not required to enter a plea when their case was first heard at West Kowloon Court on Thursday, three of them – Leung, Tsang and Figo Chan – stated they would not plead guilty when a court clerk asked whether they understood the allegations.

“Peaceful protests constitute no crime,” Chan said. He also chanted “five demands, not one less” – a popular slogan among protesters during last year’s anti-government unrest – and called for the release of all political prisoners.

“I understand the charges, but I did not commit any crime,” Tsang said.

“No crime for peaceful assemblies. Shame on politically driven prosecutions,” Leung said.

Former lawmaker Eddie Chu (left) and Eastern district councillor Tsang Kin-shing at West Kowloon Court on Thursday. Photo: Sam Tsang
Former lawmaker Eddie Chu (left) and Eastern district councillor Tsang Kin-shing at West Kowloon Court on Thursday. Photo: Sam Tsang

The 17 charges include incitement to knowingly taking part in an unauthorised assembly, holding or organising an unauthorised assembly, and knowingly taking part in an unauthorised assembly. Each carries a maximum jail sentence of five years.

The prosecution accused Wu, Figo Chan and the three district councillors of issuing a public appeal on June 30, urging people to take part in the illegal march. This year, police banned the annual July 1 protest for the first time since Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

The three former legislators, Chui, and Figo Chan allegedly staged the protest, as well as took part in it alongside some 100 demonstrators, near Hennessy Road and Tonnochy Road in Wan Chai on the following day.

Hong Kong activists plan to defy police ban on July 1 protest march

Prosecutors asked for a two-month adjournment to prepare necessary documents to move the case to the District Court, where jail sentences of up to seven years may apply.

Principal Magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen scheduled the next hearing on February 8, before releasing each of the eight on a HK$1,000 (US$129) bail. He also ordered them to surrender their travel documents and report to police once a week at the prosecutors’ request.

Outside court, Figo Chan accused city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor of suppressing dissent, and demanded the government respond positively to protesters’ demands raised during last year’s unrest.

“The levels of press freedom and the freedom to stage protests and assemblies [in Hong Kong] just keep getting eroded,” Chan said. “We reiterate that the government must respond to citizens’ demands and stop the suppression.”

This article Hong Kong protests: three opposition figures charged over unauthorised rally say they will not admit to allegations first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.