Sat, Jul 06, 2019 - Page 1 News List

HK artist first to be charged over demonstrations

PUBLIC GRIEVANCES:Student groups rejected requests for dialogue by the government, saying they were not interested in closed-door meetings

AFP, HONG KONG and Bloomberg

Graffiti that reads: “Cancel functional constituencies” is seen on lawmakers’ desks at the Legislative Council building in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

Photo: Bloomberg

A Hong Kong street artist was yesterday charged with assaulting a police officer and criminal damage, the first prosecution against an anti-government protester since the territory was rocked by unprecedented demonstrations.

Sparked by a law that would have allowed extraditions to China, the territory has witnessed three huge peaceful rallies, as well as civil disobedience and violence from some younger protesters who have besieged police headquarters and on Monday stormed the Hong Kong Legislative Council.

Pun Ho-chiu (潘浩超), 31, yesterday appeared in court over his alleged involvement in the blockade of police headquarters on June 21.

He was also charged with disorderly behavior for throwing eggs at police outside the headquarters during the six-hour siege.

A well-known activist nicknamed “Painter” for his street art, Pun was remanded into custody and faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted. He was one of the only protesters during the police siege to show himself unmasked.

Forensic investigators have been combing through the trashed legislature for fingerprint and DNA evidence to help identify protesters who stormed the building and left its walls daubed with slogans such as “HK is not China” and a British colonial era flag pinned to a podium.

Police have yet to release a tally on how many have been arrested during the month of protests, but local media have reported dozens have been detained so far.

So far, no one has been charged with criminal offenses related to the storming of the Legislative Council’s complex.

Police earlier this week announced the arrest of 12 suspects, ages 14 to 36, on a range of offenses, including weapons possession and obstructing a police officer, in connection with another protest earlier on Monday.

While the protests were sparked by huge public opposition to the extradition bill, they have since morphed into a broad anti-government movement.

Activists have circulated plans via the encrypted messaging app Telegram for a new protest tomorrow, which is to take place in Kowloon — an area popular with Chinese tourists, who are subject to heavily censored news across the border.

A mothers’ group yesterday evening planned to rally in support of those who ransacked the legislature.

Sealing Cheng (鄭詩靈), an academic at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and an organizer of the rally, said that the young protesters were attacking a symbol of power that is stacked with pro-Beijing appointees and politicians.

“We have to ask the question, who had already destroyed the legislature?” she told Radio Television Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) has postponed the extradition legislation, but has failed to quell public anger.

Multiple university student groups yesterday rejected requests by Lam’s administration for closed-door talks, saying that they were not interested in private talks and would not sit down until she met their demands.

The students, like other groups involved in the protests, are seeking the complete withdrawal of legislation allowing extraditions to China and reforms allowing direct elections for the territory’s top office.

Lam’s office confirmed that she was seeking meetings with “young people of different backgrounds” and urged the students to reconsider the decision.

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