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On police orders, workers begin to dismantle a barricade at the start of the clearance of the Admiralty occupation of the Umbrella Movement, December 10, 2014 (photo: Lam Yik Fei)

Timeline: Milestones of the Hong Kong freedom struggle in the post-Umbrella Movement era, 2014 to 2018

The following timeline marks the key events related to the struggle for democracy and self-determination in Hong Kong since the Umbrella Movement in 2014.

Updated on 24 September 2018

Umbrella Movement, consisting of street occupations of three city hubs, Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok for a total of 79 days, opposing restrictions on universal suffrage imposed by the Chinese government and calling for full and genuine universal suffrage.

Fake suffrage proposal defeated: The Hong Kong government’s fake suffrage proposal, following the restrictions imposed by the Chinese government, is defeated in the Legislative Council, where pro-democracy Legco members make up more than one-third of the total number of members and therefore have veto power on constitutional amendments.

Bookseller abductions: Bookseller Lee Bo is abducted from Hong Kong and detained in the mainland. He is one of five who ran a bookstore in Hong Kong detained by mainland authorities; another, Gui Minhai, was abducted from Thailand. The cross-border abductions caused great alarm regarding the Communist Party’s infringement of Hong Kong’s autonomy and the prospect of Hong Kong citizens being abducted by the Communist Party and brought to the mainland. On 28 January 2017, mainland tycoon Xiao Jianhua was abducted from a luxury hotel in Hong Kong and brought to the mainland.

Mong Kok police-protester clashes: Nightlong clashes between police and protesters take place in Mong Kok on the first day of Chinese New Year, precipitated by a crackdown on unlicensed street vendors. The Hong Kong government and police immediately label the violence a “riot”. Eventually, by mid-2018, 25 people are sentenced to a total of 71 years, 1 month and 21 days in prison.

New candidates win Legislative Council elections: Localist and self-determinationist groups, all but one formed in the aftermath of the Umbrella Movement, win six seats and nearly 20 percent of the vote in Legislative Council elections, a development that alarms the Communist Party, which regards such groups as “separatists”.

NPCSC Basic Law interpretation; Legco disqualifications: The National People’s Congress Standing Committee interprets Article 104 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, opening the door to Hong Kong government efforts to disqualify democratically elected pro-democracy Legislative Council members. Over the coming months, six will be disqualified.

Umbrella Movement 9 arrested; prosecutions of pro-democracy leaders: Over two years after the end of the Umbrella Movement, nine pro-democracy leaders are charged with “inciting public nuisance”, the Hong Kong government essentially blaming them for starting the street occupations in September 2014. By the end of 2017, the Hong Kong government has brought altogether 43 legal cases against 28 pro-democracy leaders, effectively using prosecutions to crack down on the pro-democracy movement.

Criminalization of “insult” of national anthem: On 1 October, the National People’s Congress passed a new national anthem law which includes criminalization of “insulting” the anthem, and on this date, inserted the mainland law into Annex III of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, requiring the Hong Kong government to pass a law in Hong Kong criminalizing “insult” to the anthem. Prior to this, it had become common practice for fans of Hong Kong’s national football team to boo the anthem at football matches. The Hong Kong government planned to introduce legislation criminalizing “insult” in late 2018.

Candidates barred from running for Legco on political grounds: Agnes Chow is banned from running in a Legislative Council by-election to replace her Demosistō party fellow Nathan Law, who was disqualified after having been democratically elected in September 2016. The grounds for barring Chow are that she belongs to a party that advocates self-determination, which, according to the Communist Party and Hong Kong government, is against the Basic Law, even though Law had been allowed to run in 2016. Chow is one of altogether nine candidates prohibited from running for Legco, six in 2016 and three in 2018.

Nobel Peace Prize nomination: A bi-partisan group of U.S. lawmakers nominates Joshua Wong, Alex Chow, Nathan Law and the Umbrella Movement for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Prison sentences overturned, but stricter sentencing guidelines upheld: The prison sentences of Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow for occupying Civic Square in the lead-up to the Umbrella Movement on 26 September 2014 were overturned by the Court of Final Appeal, but stricter sentencing guidelines imposed by the Court of Appeal were upheld. The guidelines recommend heavier sentences for those convicted of protest-related crimes in cases where there may be some violence involved, even if the defendant himself is neither charged with nor convicted of a violent crime. Many fear the guidelines will lead to the imprisonment of more protesters in the future.

Edward Leung and other Mong Kok ‘rioters’ receive heavy sentences: Former Hong Kong Indigenous leader Edward Leung is sentenced to six years in prison after having been convicted of “riot” and other crimes related to his participation in the violence between police and protesters in Mong Kok at Chinese New Year in 2016. In all so far, 25 defendants in relation to the police-protester clashes have been convicted and sentenced to 71 years, 1 month and 21 days in prison, 18 of those for ‘riot’ amounting to 67 years and 6 months. Leung’s is also by far the longest prison sentence of altogether 14 given to political opposition leaders since the Umbrella Movement.

Mainland authorities to enforce mainland law in HK: The rigged Legislative Council passes the so-called “co-location” bill which will allow mainland officials to enforce mainland law at the terminus of the new express rail link between Hong Kong and the mainland. This will be the first time mainland law enforcement officials operate in Hong Kong, in direct contravention of the Basic Law which stipulates that no mainland law shall apply in Hong Kong except those relating to defense, foreign affairs and other matters outside of the limits of the city’s autonomy. Any exceptions must be listed in Annex III before they can be applied. Despite this, the National People’s Congress approved co-location at the end of 2017. Legco’s approval is the last step in the process. The co-location arrangement came into effect at midnight on 4 September with the handing over of jurisdiction from Hong Kong to mainland authorities. It is facing five different court challenges, but in spite of this, the Hong Kong High Court ruled in August against an injunction plea that the issue of co-location’s legality be resolved first. The first legal challenges are scheduled to be held on 30 October, but the judge’s ruling suggests the High Court is not amenable to the opposition’s case. The Hong Kong Bar Association has clearly stated that co-location is unconstitutional for the reasons stated above, and it is considered by many to be a gross infringement on Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Hong Kong government bans Hong Kong National Party, on grounds of “national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others” under never-before-used Article 8 of the Societies Ordinance. This is the first time the government has outlawed a political group.

Victor Mallet, Asia Editor of the Financial Times, is expelled from Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government refused to renew his visa, usually a routine matter, though he had lived in Hong Kong for seven years. It also refused to explain why, saying it never comments on individual immigration cases. Just about everyone suspects the measure was taken in retaliation for Mallet hosting a talk by Andy Chan, chair of Hong Kong National Party, in Mallet’s capacity as vice-chair of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Hong Kong. This is the first time the Hong Kong government has expelled a journalist on political grounds, mirroring actions regularly taken by the mainland government. The incident is considered a precedent-setting sign of the deterioration of freedom of expression and of the press in Hong Kong.

Lau Siu-lai is barred from running for the Legislative Council in a by-election to fill the seat from which she was expelled over her oath-taking in October 2016. She becomes the tenth potential candidate arbitrarily barred on political grounds by a Returning Officer of the Electoral Affairs Commission, who serves an administrative role with neither the authority nor expertise to make political decisions. The decision is final and non-appealable. As in the cases of Edward Leung and Demosistō (Nathan Law and Agnes Chow), it is a sign of moving goalposts, as all were once allowed to run but then not. As in Agnes’ case, the decision apparently has to do with Lau’s advocacy of self-determination, which the Party and Hong Kong government say is “against the Basic Law” even though Basic Law Article 39 states Hong Kong is party to the ICCPR and ICESCR and Hong Kong people are entitled to the rights therein, including Article 1 of both, the right of self-determination. To many, the only free and fair elections Hong Kong once had, for the Legco geographical constituencies, have been irrevocably compromised.

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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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