By James Pomfret and Jessie Pang
HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Hong Kong court docket will hand down sentences on Wednesday for 9 leaders of the town’s “Occupy Central” protests that paralyzed elements of the previous British colony for 79 days in late 2014 and raised issues about freedoms below Chinese language rule.
The choice follows a intently watched trial lasting nearly a month and comes at a time when Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy have come below rising pressure from China’s Communist Social gathering leaders, stoking concern from overseas governments, rights teams and businesspeople.
The general public nuisance trial is taken into account probably the most vital authorized maneuver from authorities to punish these concerned within the 2014 Occupy demonstrations, which pushed for real, full democracy in Hong Kong.
The demonstrators blocked roads in three essential districts – Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok – and drew greater than one million folks over almost three months, organizers estimated.
9 defendants, together with regulation professor Benny Tai, 54, retired sociologist Chan Kin-man, 60, and retired pastor Chu Yiu-ming, 75, had been discovered responsible of at the least one public nuisance cost every over their roles in planning and mobilizing supporters through the protest.
Every cost carries a potential jail time period of seven years.
All 9 pleaded not responsible and argued the “umbrella” motion was supposed as peaceable, non-violent civil disobedience, serving no motive aside from to learn society and make optimistic democratic progress.
A court docket discovered them responsible of public nuisance fees on April 9, with the choose ruling that, whereas civil disobedience is allowed in Hong Kong, it could not excuse an unlawful act.
Greater than 100 supporters gathered exterior the West Kowloon Regulation Courts constructing earlier than the sentencing, chanting help for the defendants and saying they had been “fearless and invincible”.
The demonstrations had been the most important and most protracted mass motion in current a long time within the world monetary hub, and one of many boldest populist challenges to China’s leaders for the reason that pro-democracy protests in and round Beijing’s Tiananmen Sq. (NYSE:) in 1989.
Hong Kong reverted from British to Chinese language rule in 1997 with the promise that the capitalist hub would stay unchanged for 50 years and proceed to take pleasure in a excessive diploma of autonomy, an unbiased frequent regulation system, and freedoms not allowed in mainland China.
Since then, nonetheless, critics say China has reneged on its pledge, with authorities clamping down on opposition forces, disqualifying democratic lawmakers from the legislature, jailing activists, blocking aspiring younger politicians from contesting native elections and banning a pro-independence political social gathering.
Authorities are additionally now pushing for the enactment of a brand new extradition association with mainland Chinese language authorities that has raised grave human rights issues.
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