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Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 00:24

‘Occupy’ heads set to face charges

By Willa Wu and Shadow Li

HONG KONG - At least nine leading figures in the illegal “Occupy Central” movement were expected to be prosecuted after they were told to report to police on Monday in connection with their involvement in the 79-day mass protests in 2014.

The trio who were believed to have initiated the illegal assembly – Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chu Yiu-ming and Chan Kin-man – were among the nine people likely to face charges.

Two legislators from the opposition camp Tanya Chan Suk-chong and Bottle Shiu Ka-chun were also on the list.

Vice-Chairman of the League of Social Democrats Raphael Wong Ho-ming, who is standing trial on a charge of contempt of court related to the Mong Kok riot, was also called by the police to report to Wan Chai Division Police Station on Monday. So were former lawmaker Lee Wing-tat and two student activists – former core members of the Hong Kong Federation of Students Eason Chung Yiu-wah and Tommy Cheung Sau-yin.

They are expected to appear in Eastern Magistrates’ Court on Thursday facing charges that could include causing public nuisance, conspiracy to cause public nuisance and inciting others to participate in public nuisance.

Each offence carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

The 79-day illegal sit-in, which started in September 2014, saw hundreds of thousands of protesters taking over main thoroughfares in Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, forcing bus routes to detour and businesses in nearby areas to shut down.The protest had a severe impact on people’s daily lives as well as on the economy.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said in response to a lawmaker’s inquiry that 225 people had been prosecuted in relation to the illegal assembly by the end of January. Of these, 123 had to bear the legal consequences of the charges they faced, having been sentenced to terms of up to 10 months.

The trio of organizers – Tai, Chu and Chan Kin-man – had previously surrendered themselves to police in December 2014, following the end of the illegal occupation movement in the city.

Chief Executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor stressed on Monday that according to the Basic Law, the latest prosecution was carried out independently by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

She called on society to respect the work of the investigation and prosecution authorities.

When asked whether the prosecution would further polarize the city, Lam replied that mending rifts should not come at the expense of compromising the city’s rule of law.

The DOJ said the criminal prosecution should not be politicized and the decision to bring the issue to court was based on law and its enforcement.

Legislator Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, welcomed the decision to arrest those who were alleged to have direct involvement in triggering and organizing the illegal assembly.

Lee said the move was justified and long overdue, noting that discussion of prosecuting the initiators of the illegal assembly had been going for a long time in the city’s legislature and in society.
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