All nine pro-democracy figures put on trial late last year over the 2014 Occupy protests were on Tuesday found guilty of at least one public nuisance offence – with the charges carrying a maximum punishment of seven years in prison.
Occupy co-founders HKU law professor Benny Tai, retired sociology professor Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming were all found guilty of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance.
Tai and Chan were also convicted by the District Court of inciting others to cause a public nuisance, although Chu was acquitted of this charge.
All three were found not guilty of inciting people to incite others to cause a public nuisance.
Meanwhile, Civic Party legislator Tanya Chan and social welfare lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun were both found guilty of inciting others to cause a public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to cause a public nuisance.
Pro-democracy activists Tommy Cheung and Eason Chung were found guilty of the same two offences.
Former legislator Lee Wing-tat and activist Raphael Wong were convicted of inciting others to cause a public nuisance, and Wong was also found guilty of inciting people to incite others to cause a public nuisance.
Judge Johnny Chan said that although civil disobedience is recognised in Hong Kong, it cannot be used as a defence for criminal charges.
He said “the obstruction caused to the roads as a result of the launch of the Occupy Central movement on 28th September 2014 [is] unreasonable and hence unwarranted by the law.”
Judge Chan also ruled that the public nuisance charges “do not give rise to any chilling effect on the exercise of the fundamental rights to freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly.” He added that the offences will not curtail or suppress civil disobedience "at its formation stage or [suppress] human rights as the defendants contended."
In a 267-page ruling, the Judge said the three founders of the Occupy Central campaign – Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu – knew that excessive inconvenience would necessarily be caused to the general public as a result of the large scale occupation.
He said he was satisfied that they had “intended that the occupy movement in or in the neighbourhood of Central would be for an indefinite period.”
But he said they were “totally wrong” in thinking that the “impact of the occupation would be acceptable as long as Central/the financial hub would not be paralyzed.”
The judge said the occupation impinged “unreasonably upon the rights of others. The unreasonableness of the obstruction was such that the significant and protected right to demonstrate should be displaced. The act was one not warranted by law.”
Judge Chan added that they were “naive” to think the government would introduce their version of universal suffrage “overnight with a click of fingers”, or that tens of thousands of people would just leave overnight even if the administration had a positive response.
If jailed for more than a month, Tanya Chan and Shiu could end up being stripped of their Legco seats.
The Occupy protests paralysed parts of the SAR for 79 days in late 2014, as students, activists and other members of the public took over key roads in Admiralty, Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok, calling for genuine universal suffrage.
Prominent student leaders of the protests Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow spent time in prison for unlawful assembly offences over the storming of Civic Square just before the street occupations began. Joshua Wong is also currently appealing against a jail term relating to the clearance of the Mong Kok protest site by bailiffs.
Last updated: 2019-04-09 HKT 15:02