Three Occupy movement co-founders and six leading protesters appeared at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Jan. 9 for pre-trials.
The co-founders faced a charge of inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance in 2014 among three charges.
They were Benny Tai Yiu-ting, associate professor of law at Hong Kong University; Chan Kin-man, associate professor of sociology at Hong Kong Chinese University; and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming of Hong Kong Baptist Church.
The other defendants were legislators Tanya Chan and Bottle Shiu Ka-chun; former student leaders Tommy Cheung Sau-yin and Eason Chung; Raphael Wong Ho-ming, vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats; and Lee Wing-tat, a member of the central committee of the Democratic Party.
The case was adjourned until Feb. 13.
All but Lee were charged with inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance. Other charges were conspiracy to commit public nuisance and incitement to commit public nuisance.
Tai told ucanews.com on Jan. 10 that it was hard to be optimistic about the verdict.
“It depends on how much the court is willing to protect the rule of law in Hong Kong at this very moment,” he said.
“The Hong Kong government will continue to use the law as a tool to suppress the opposition.”
January is likely to be tough for pro-democracy leaders and activists. The media expect four to six trials to start involving about 40 defendants.
The appeals on Jan. 16 of three people from student group Scholarism and the Hong Kong Federation of Students and of 13 pro-democracy protesters will be a focal point.
The former student activists are Joshua Wong Chi-fung, secretary-general of pro-democracy party Demosisto; Alex Chow Yong-kang, a former secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students; and Nathan Law Kwun-chung, a former legislator.
They were convicted of unlawful assembly at a square near government headquarters in 2014, setting off the Occupy movement.
They were sentenced to social service or probation in 2016, but Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung appealed against the verdict and they were jailed for six to eight months.
Similarly, the 13 protesters were convicted of unlawful assembly after protesting against the Hong Kong government’s new town development plan in the northeastern New Territories in 2014.
After being sentenced to social service of 80 to 150 hours, the Department of Justice appealed against the verdict, resulting in them being jailed for eight to 13 months.
Jackie Hung, officer of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong, told ucanews.com: “The Hong Kong government and the Secretary of Justice are gripping the youths and not letting them go in order to threaten them.”
One commentator has claimed the government is using an unprecedented tribunal to criminalize the democratic movement.
Shiu, one of the defendants on Jan. 9, told ucanews.com that the government under authoritarian rule used justice to intimidate.
“In the case of those youths, the government continued to charge them until they were jailed,” he said.
In December 2017, Rimsky Yuen resigned and Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah took over in January, but Shiu believes that the government will not make any major changes.
“Under authoritarian rule, I do not have any expectations of the new Secretary for Justice. Whoever takes the office, he or she must follow the ruling party; otherwise, is he or she possibly in?” he said.
“The Hong Kong government adopts authoritarian rule since it is the same strain of China. Chinese President Xi Jinping is adopting authoritarian rule to deal with dissidents with law. If it is a national policy, can Hong Kong not follow?”
Shiu admitted there must be changes in Hong Kong, but first of all China needs to change. However, he is not optimistic. “Under such circumstances, it may take a long time before Hong Kong can step out of winter.”