Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 08:35
Radical politicians convicted for unlawful assembly
By Kahon Chan in Hong Kong

Despite a conviction of unlawful assembly and organizing and taking part in an unlawful procession in July 2011, two leading People Power legislators still managed to continue filibustering at the Legislative Council (LegCo) on Monday, as sentencing has been adjourned until May 16.

The two convicted lawmakers — Raymond Wong Yuk-man and Albert Chan Wai-yip — returned to the LegCo chamber on Monday evening on bail. Outside the courtroom, they had already vowed to take the case to the Court of Final Appeal.

Magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing spent the day explaining how he reached the conviction decision.

The concerned assembly took place after the July 1 protest in 2011. Hundreds of People Power supporters, at Wong’s urging, vowed to march to Government House in the evening.

Hundreds of protesters ended up staging a sit-down on Garden Road, a key uphill motorway leading to Government House, bringing traffic to a halt and causing police to cordon off the road. 

Though the People Power rally appeared to have spun off from the July 1 protest, Magistrate To said it was not part of the authorized demonstration as the two events were inconsistent in time, assembly point, route and goals.

One key element in the offense of unlawful assembly, stipulated in the Public Order Ordinance, is that the conduct of the assembly should cause any person to “reasonably” fear that the assembly will commit a breach of the peace.

The magistrate was convinced that when protesters were instructed by Wong and Chan to form several layers of human chains and “rehearsed” pushing towards the police line, the potential of a clash could have terrified reporters covering the confrontation.

The apparent attempt to cross the police line also constituted an unlawful purpose. The magistrate concluded that all elements of the offense were already fulfilled at this point and whatever happened later was only a matter of severity.

Magistrate To stressed that the judiciary is independent from the prosecution and the political orientation of the defendants was not considered.

The charge of unlawful assembly alone could lead to a fine of up to HK$5,000 and jail terms up to three years. The duo, if sent to jail for more than a month, may face a motion to be relieved of their LegCo duties. But the opposition could easily block such attempts as the motion would require approval from two-thirds of all lawmakers.