Police say 1,200 took part in a rally outside the Legco building on Saturday to support Occupy co-founder, and University of Hong Kong associate law professor, Benny Tai. The protest follows recent criticism of Tai by the SAR and central governments, as well as pro-establishment figures, who say he has advocated Hong Kong independence.
The controversy stems from comments made by Tai at a forum he attended in Taiwan last month. There he raised the possibility that Hong Kong could opt for independence, should China ever become a democratic state.
Protesters say freedom of speech is a basic human right. They called on universities to stand firm in the defence of academic freedom.
At the rally, Tai said he wished the Chief Executive Carrie Lam could explain how his comments had amounted to advocating independence. He said that, over the past week, he had faced attacks reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution. He also said he might lose his teaching post at the university and that he could be sent to prison. But he said he will continue to speak out for what he believes is right.
Meanwhile, around 30 people from a pro-independence group, staged a separate rally to support Tai. Members of the Hong Kong National Front waved flags that read "Hong Kong independence", and chanted independence slogans. The group says, while it doesn't totally agree with Tai's political stance, it believes support should be given to him when he is facing, what it calls, political persecution. The rally was also joined by representatives from the student unions of several universities
On Friday, the Chief Executive said she had seen a video of the event and said the government was justified in issuing an official statement condemning Tai.
Last updated: 2018-04-08 HKT 00:07