After the “Umbrella movement” attracted worldwide attention four years ago, the Hong Kong government and courts began a campaign of prosecutions of some of its leaders. The Hong Kong District Court is conducting several trials, including one involving the three leaders of the “Occupy Central” campaign.
Chan Kin-man (陳健民), a sociology professor who has devoted himself long-term to civil society and third-sector research in China and Hong Kong, is among the Occupy trio.
This matter is of great concern and hopefully the ruling will prove Hong Kong to be a developed society that protects human rights and the independence of the judiciary instead of relying on outdated and authoritarian laws to seek guilty verdicts for citizens pursuing the ideals of freedom and democracy.
The “Umbrella movement” is a civic movement of Hong Kongers pressing for genuine universal suffrage — a legitimate action to demand democracy. Regrettably, this peaceful and rational demonstration was not acceptable to the Chinese and Hong Kong governments, which violently and forcefully suppressed it, to the world’s astonishment.
Four years later, the Hong Kong government is pressing groundless charges — originally and specifically intended to eliminate a minority of political dissidents during the Cold War era half a century ago — of “conspiracy to cause public nuisance,” “inciting others to cause public nuisance” and “inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance.”
It is trying to cook up a crime to fit the actions. This is unacceptable in a democratic and free society.
The charges are in obvious contravention of the basic right to freedom of opinion and expression as stipulated in Article 19 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The trial of the trio is important, as the ruling will set a significant benchmark that will affect the territory’s future.
Following an official statement from the International Society for Third-Sector Research, which expresses the deepest concern for the prosecution of Chan, the Taiwan Association of Third-Sector Research and National Chengchi University’s Center for the Third Sector issue this article in its support.
In addition to expressing grave concern, they argue that the accused are innocent based on the true essence of freedom of expression.
The actions taken by the Hong Kong government and courts have severely infringed on the basic human rights of Chan and eight others also on trial, in addition to having a profoundly negative effect on Hong Kong’s democracy and civic society.
Freedom of expression is not only a basic human right, but also a foundation of civic society, and the Hong Kong authorities and courts must never be allowed to arbitrarily abolish it.
Hopefully, the Hong Kong government and courts will take this call seriously, and restore and protect the civil rights of Chan and the eight others who stand accused.
Chi Hui-jung is chairperson of the Taiwan Association of Third-Sector Research. Hsu Shih-jung is the director of National Chengchi University’s Center for the Third Sector.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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