Sat, Aug 29, 2015 - Page 6 News List

HK student leader back in court over anti-China protest

AFP, HONG KONG

Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) was back in court yesterday over an anti-China protest, a day after he faced new charges related to a pro-democracy rally.

Wong, 18, has accused the authorities of “political prosecution” as they hit him with a raft of cases.

“The government and police have a political agenda,” Wong told reporters.

The charges he faces relate to various protests between June and November last year.

“I think it’s quite unreasonable. They could have taken us to court last year... It’s meaningless,” he said.

Wong became the teenage face of the pro-democracy “Umbrella Movement” that gripped Hong Kong for more than two months at the end of last year.

Protesters were calling for free elections of the semi-autonomous territory’s next leader, opposing a blueprint laid down by Beijing which would have meant candidates were vetted by a loyalist committee.

That reform package was voted down by legislators in June, in an unprecedented rebuke to Beijing. Yesterday’s hearing concerned a small anti-China protest in June last year — ahead of the major rallies — which saw dozens gather outside Beijing’s representative office in Hong Kong.

They were opposing a “white paper” from China that asserted its control over the semi-autonomous territory and a reproduction of the document was burned.

Wong, student leader Nathan Law (羅冠聰), 22, and activists Raphael Wong (黃浩銘) and Albert Chan (陳偉業) have been charged with obstructing police at the June incident. All have pleaded “not guilty”.

The case was adjourned yesterday until Oct. 26 when there will be a stay of proceedings hearing.

“They’ve known about this since the day of the arrests,” said Wong’s lawyer, Michael Vidler.

“Why haven’t they proceeded? We’re saying it’s politically motivated,” he said.

Wong and Law were also charged on Thursday over a student protest in September which helped spark the widespread democracy rallies.

Wong faces further charges over a democracy rally in November last year, but said he was determined to keep campaigning.

“Sometimes because of the court, I can’t go to school — it really affects my daily life and my academic process,” Wong said.

“It’s frustrating and tiring, but I still think it’s worth paying the price,” he said.

Wong said his campaign group, Scholarism, would be announcing a new strategy next month.

It will coincide with the Sept. 28 anniversary of the start of the democracy rallies — the date when police fired tear gas at protesters, galvanizing thousands more to come out in support of the movement.

Wong called for universal suffrage in the short-term and “self-determination” as a long-term goal after 2047, when the 50-year agreement to protect Hong Kong’s way of life, which took effect when Britain handed the city back to China in 1997, comes to an end.

“I’m still optimistic... but of course it’s hard for us to change the system in the next two or three years,” he said.

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