Hong Kong democracy activists in court on nuisance and incitement charges

Nine democracy activists were in court in Hong Kong on March 30. They are charged with nuisance and incitement, in what supporters see as a politically motivated case.

The group includes Benny Tai, the university professor who came up with the idea of Occupy Central. Tai’s idea was adopted by students who initiated the 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Protesters used umbrellas to protect themselves against police pepper spray, thus these protests came to be known as the Umbrella Movement.

The charges relate to these protests, which blocked off streets in Admiralty and Mong Kok districts for several weeks in 2014. However supporters said the decision for the police to go ahead with pressing charges in politically motivated. Hong Kong business leaders and special interest groups just elected a new chief executive of the territory—Beijing’s preferred candidate Carrie Lam. The defendants all received calls police summoning them to court one day after the election.

In response to the charges, Amnesty International Hong Kong Director Mabel Au, said in a statement: “The ongoing targeting of prominent figures of the Umbrella Movement is a blow to the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong. This vindictiveness shows contempt for well-established freedoms in Hong Kong and will only lead to more political tensions.”