Legal cases related to the HK Umbrella Movement, 26 June to 14 July 2015

(including occupations of Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok)

For full overview of legal cases related to the HK Umbrella Movement including occupations, go here

Prosecutions and arrests

· 29.8% of 67 prosecutions related to HK Umbrella Movement have resulted in convictions (Stand News)

· 70-year-old blue-ribbon Man Ho-chuen convicted of assault (2 July)

· Raphael Wong, Albert Chan, Joshua Wong and Nathan Law charged with obstructing police for July 2014 demonstration at Liaison Office (7,8 & 14 July)

· Joshua Wong and girlfriend assaulted late at night 28 June; no arrest yet

· 2 defendants accused of pelting Joshua Wong with eggs in November plead not guilty (8 July)

· Assault charges dropped against Wong Ching-wah (8 July)

· Cheng Yeung, Tai Chi-shing, Cheung Chi-pong and Shek Ka-fai sentenced to 150 hours community service after having plead guilty to criminal damage and unlawful assembly related to breaking Legco windowpanes (13 July)

· Au Yeung Tung sentenced to 160 hours of community service after having been convicted of obstructing traffic (14 July)

· Elderly blue-ribbons So Suet-ling and Chan Nam-sing sentenced to, respectively, 14 days in prison (suspended for a year) and an $8,000 fine, having previously been convicted of assaulting a pro-democracy demonstrator (14 July)

Government and police accountability

· Public confidence in Independent Police Complaints Council falls to all-time low due to lack of action on complaints against police

· IPCC rules police superindtendent Franklin Chu assaulted protester Cheng Chung-hang, returns case to police for handling

· Ken Tsang’s application for judicial review of police decision to not divulge names of his police assailants is accepted (13 July)

Since fake universal suffrage was defeated in the Legislative Council on June 18, legal cases related to the HK Umbrella Movement have been coming so fast and furious it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Prosecutions and arrests

Stand News reported that 29.8% of 67 cases related to the HK Umbrella Movement have been successfully prosecuted versus an overall conviction rate in 2014 of 50.3%. My take on this is that the HK police and Department of Justice have been under pressure from the HK government to demonstrate the illegal nature of the Umbrella Movement, as per standard HK government propaganda, in which it is routinely referred to as the “illegal Occupy movement”. Since the occupations were overwhelmingly nonviolent, as indeed the vast majority of HK pro-democracy demonstrations have always been, the HK police and DoJ have had to search hard for cases to prosecute, and the result is that they have chosen many weak cases; indeed, many of the charges seem downright petty. Police in particular have often presented insufficient, inaccurate and misleading evidence. Strikingly, the one aspect of “illegality” that the DoJ has not tested in court is “unlawful assembly”. There are many possibilities as to why they have not prosecuted perhaps the most obvious “crime”, a strong one being that they fear that the flawed Public Order Ordinance under which they would prosecute the charge would not stand up to challenges in higher courts.

On July 2, 70-year-old blue-ribbon Man Ho-chuen was convicted of assault for snatching a yellow ribbon from 19-year-old Chan Ho-wun and poking his throat on October 13 in Admiralty. While Man acted obnoxiously, convicting him of assault seems a bit exaggerated, especially as no more than minor injury was caused.

Four prominent pro-democracy activists have been charged with obstructing police in relation to an incident that took place at a demonstration way back on July 11, 2014. Raphael Wong, vice-chair of League of Social Democrats was charged on July 7; Albert Chan, People Power Legislative Council member, on July 8; and Joshua Wong, head of Scholarism, and Nathan Law, General Secretary of Hong Kong Federation of Students, on July 14. The crime with which they’re charged is punishable by up to two years in prison. The demonstration, against the White Paper on HK issued in June 2014 by the Partystate, was held in front of the Central Government Liaison Office. An oversize copy of the White Paper was burned. The prosecution appears likely to allege that when police attempted to put out the flames, they were blocked from doing so by the defendants. Two of the defendants were nowhere near the scene when the incident occurred, and it especially perplexing they have been charged. The fact that police have waited so long to bring the charge raises the suspicion that these are “political prosecutions”, their main purpose being to harass and intimidate the individuals and the groups to which they belong, and, by extension, to serve as a warning to others in the pro-democracy movement that they can be arrested on the flimsiest of pretexts, even a long time after the incident in which a crime was allegedly committed. It is also suspected that the prosecution is meant to deter others who may wish to demonstrate in front of the Liaison Office, a flashpoint where police have for a long time placed undue restrictions on freedom of assembly. Joshua Wong and Nathan Law are the leaders of the two most prominent student pro-democracy groups. These are the first formal charges against such high-profile pro-democracy activists, and it’s striking that they were made in relation to what appears to be a very insignificant incident which occurred two and a half months before the 79-day occupations.

The news that Joshua Wong would be charged with obstructing police came just days after Wong and his girlfriend were assaulted late at night on June 28. So far, no arrest has been made.

Meanwhile, on July 8, two men plead not guilty to assault in relation to an incident in which they allegedly pelted Joshua Wong with eggs outside a Kowloon court on November 27 where he was answering frivolous charges of obstructing bailiffs during the police clearance of the Mong Kok occupation on Nathan Road.

On July 8, assault charges were dropped against Wong Ching-wah, a pro-democracy protester. She was accused of kicking Tang Kwok-hung in the calf in Mong Kok on January 11 during a GaoWu (“shopping”) protest. Video evidence showed that Tang was the aggressor.

On July 14, four protesters, Cheng Yeung, Tai Chi-shing, Cheung Chi-pong and Shek Ka-fai, aged between 18 and 24, were sentenced to 150 hours community service after having previously plead guilty to criminal damage and unlawful assembly in connection with an incident on November 18 in which they smashed window panes in the Legislative Council building in Admiralty in an apparent attempt to break in. The judge refused the prosecution’s request that the convicts pay $587,000 in compensation for the damage caused. There is little to no criticism of the conviction of criminal damage, but to my knowledge, these are the first four to be convicted of unlawful assembly in relation to the occupations, although those charges appeared incidental to the criminal damage charges; indeed, it was hard to discern the prosecution logic in laying them or the grounds on which they were convicted except for the fact that they happened to commit criminal damage where an occupation was on-going. Of the tens of thousands of candidates for prosecution for unlawful assembly, they hardly seemed the most likely, and yet they are the only convicts on that charge up to now.

On July 14, Au Yeung Tung, performance artist and assistant to Legislative Council member Frederick Fung, was sentenced to 160 hours of community service. On June 26, he had been found guilty of obstructing traffic. On September 28, hours before police attacked Hong Kong people with 87 canisters of teargas (for which, up to now, there has been no accountability; of which there has not even been an independent investigation), Au threatened to jump from the pedestrian bridge connecting Admiralty Centre and Tamar Park. Police stopped traffic from passing beneath the bridge until Au was removed. Strikingly, while the occupations obviously obstructed traffic, no occupiers have been convicted of obstructing traffic. After the sentencing hearing, Au expressed astonishment that he was sentenced to 10 more hours of community service for a nonviolent act than the four convicted of criminal damage of property for breaking windowpanes of the Legislative Council building (see above).

On July 15, elderly So Suet-ling and her husband, 72-year-old Chan Nam-sing were sentenced to, respectively, 14 days in prison (suspended for a year) and an $8,000 fine, having previously been convicted of assaulting a pro-democracy demonstrator in Mong Kok in November. As in the case of 70-year-old Man Ho-chuen, while their behavior may not have been the most civilized, whether it warranted a conviction of (or even prosecution for) assault, especially considering their age and the lack of any substantial injury caused their victim, is questionable. Most all of the blue-ribbon convictions have been of this quite harmless variety. Prosecutions of the more perhaps triad-related thuggish elements who caused bodily injury to pro-democracy protesters, especially in Mong Kok, has been notable by its absence.

Government and police accountability

Public confidence in the Independent Police Complaints Council, whose statutory roll is to “observe, monitor and review” (in practice, this means “do almost nothing”) police handling of complaints against police has sunk to an all-time low, mostly due to the perception that it has been very inactive and ineffectual in regard to complaints about police misbehavior related to the occupations.

Strikingly, the survey about the IPCC came out in the very same week that the IPCC showed for the first time since the occupations that it was actually doing something. The IPCC ruled that police superintendent Franklin Chu King-wai assaulted protester Cheng Chung-hang when he gratuitously hit him with a baton on November 29 in Mong Kok. The notorious incident was widely broadcast on television. The IPCC decision differs from the conclusion of the Complaints Against Police Office, the office within the police force that the IPCC is supposed to “monitor, observe and review”. Now the IPCC ruling goes back to police to decide what to do about it. In the meantime, Franklin Chu is set to retire on July 23. To date, no police officer has been prosecuted or formally reprimanded or punished for any behavior in connection with the occupations.

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Meanwhile no progress has been made in bringing to justice the assailants in the most notorious police brutality case, the beating of Ken Tsang in Admiralty on October 15, but on July 13, Ken Tsang’s application for a judicial review of the police decision not to disclose the names of his assailants. This is the second of four Umbrella Movement related applications for judicial review to be accepted. Ken Tsang is pursuing this avenue to pressure the police to disclose his attackers’ names because up to now, the DoJ has not initiated prosecution of the police officers. If they fail to prosecute the officers, Tsang may resort to bringing a civil case against them but needs to know their names in order to do so. He said, “The incident happened nine months ago. It should not be necessary to go through a court to get the suspects’ names… It is a criminal procedure. The evidence is substantial, the media have reported the matter, a citizen was injured but almost 10 months later, there has still been no [court case]. How can I still have confidence [in the government]?” Two months ago, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen said he needed to seek advice from independent senior counsel, but since then, not a word has been heard from him about the case.

Written by

Author of ‘Umbrella: A Political Tale from Hong Kong’ and ‘As long as there is resistance, there is hope: Essays on the Hong Kong freedom struggle…’

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