Nine key figures from Hong Kong’s massive Occupy protests in 2014 – including the three co-founders – will stand trial today, four years after the civil disobedience movement for universal suffrage shut down parts of the city for 79 days.
The co-founders – academics Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Dr Chan Kin-man, and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming – face one count of conspiracy to cause public nuisance, inciting others to cause public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance.
Tai is a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, and Chan is an outgoing sociology professor at Chinese University.
Lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, as well as former student leaders Tommy Cheung Sau-yin and Eason Chung Yiu-wah, each face two incitement charges, as does Raphael Wong Ho-ming, the League of Social Democrats vice-chairman.
Former Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat faces incitement to commit public nuisance.
The trial is by far the biggest concerning the Occupy campaign, in which protesters blocked major roads across the city from late September to mid December 2014. The protests were sparked by a rigid political reform framework announced by Beijing the previous month.
The trial, expected to last for four weeks, has been moved from the District Court in Wan Chai to the West Kowloon Law Courts Building, a complex that boasts bigger and technologically more advanced courtrooms, as it is expected to attract a sizeable crowd of journalists and large public audience.
Numerous video clips will also be presented as court evidence.
District Court Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng will preside over the trial. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.
Earlier this year, lawyers for the trio took to the judge’s court to complain that one of the charges prosecutors had laid down – the one accusing them of inciting people to further incite others – was unconstitutional. But the judge did not agree. Nor was he convinced the charges the defendants faced were repetitive.
The nine will be represented by a list of top barristers, including Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes SC, Gerard McCoy SC, Wong Ching-yu SC, Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC, Robert Pang Yiu-hung SC, Edwin Choy Wai-bond SC and Hectar Pun Hei SC.
Prosecuting are Andrew Bruce SC and director of public prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin SC.
Last Thursday, Chan Kin-man, who chose to retire before his trial although he had more than five years of his tenure remaining, delivered his final lecture to a packed hall at Chinese University.
Human rights group Amnesty International called for the charges to be dropped against the nine in a statement released on Friday.