Nine people were found guilty on Tuesday of leading the 2014 Occupy Central protests, the largest civil disobedience movement in Hong Kong’s history.
Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng said the three founders of the city’s Occupy movement – Benny Tai Yiu-ting, 55, Chan Kin-man, 60, and Chu Yiu-ming, 75 – were foolish to think that, by encouraging people to block roads, they could force the government to cave to their demands. While the city’s legal system recognises the idea of civil disobedience, it “is not a defence to a criminal charge”, the judge said.
Tai, Chan, and Chu were all found guilty of one count of conspiracy to cause public nuisance. Tai and Chan were also convicted of one count of inciting others to commit public nuisance.
Legislators Tanya Chan, 47, and Shiu Ka-chun, 49, former student leaders Tommy Cheung Sau-yin, 26, and Eason Chung Yiu-wa, also 26, and League of Social Democrats vice-chairman Raphael Wong Ho-ming, 30, were found guilty of one count each of inciting others to incite and one count each of inciting. Former Democratic Party lawmaker Lee Wing-tat, 63, was found guilty of one incitement charge.
They face jail sentences of up to seven years for each charge. A jail term of more than three months could also cost Tanya Chan and Shiu their Legislative Council seats.
Prosecutors said the nine caused obstructions by getting protesters to block major roads in the city almost five years ago.
Speaking before he entered court, Occupy Central co-founder Tai said: “No matter what happens, I am confident that many of us will continue to [work towards] democracy. We will not give up.”
Fellow co-founder Chan Kin-man said that, while the trial would affect the nine of them, he was more concerned about how Hongkongers would see the civil disobedience movement.
“I still believe in the power of love and peace,” he said.
Hong Kong’s last governor before the 1997 handover, Chris Patten, criticised the verdict.
“At a time when most people would have thought that the aim of the Hong Kong government should be to bring the whole community together it seems appallingly divisive to use anachronistic common-law charges in a vengeful pursuit of political events which took place in 2014,” he said.