Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Police have charged three student leaders in last year’s Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong with unlawful assembly. Occupy Central founder Benny Tai and two other professors face a temporary professional ban or even dismissal for receiving funds for and conducting research on pro-democracy referendum.
For many, this is a vendetta by Hong Kong and mainland authorities against the ‘umbrella movement’. For 79 days beginning on 26 September, protesters held peaceful sit-ins in central Hong Kong, an event seen by many as a revival of Hong Kongers’ sense of political and civic duty, especially among young people.
The three student leaders – Scholarism leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Federation of Students secretary general Nathan Law Kwun-Chung and his predecessor Alex Chow Yong-kang – went to police headquarters in Wan Chai this morning to hear the charges, which include taking part and inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly.
The trio are due in court on 2 September. It is not known whether they will plead guilty or not. However, this morning, about 100 activists gathered outside police headquarters to show their support for the three.
The peaceful occupation of the Admiralty and other parts of the city was the response to yet another attempt by Beijing to deny Hong Kong full democracy.
The Occupy movement, which goes back a while, sought to raise awareness among Hong Kongers about the value of democracy through political training, debates, and discussions. Both Catholics and Protestants played a role in it.
Successful actions included a referendum to determine the best way to elect the chief executive. The latter was a success with the participation of about 800,000 people.
For their part, Benny Tai and two other HKU professors were targeted because of the work on referendum
The HKU governing council has accused Tai of receiving funds from anonymous donors rather than registered sponsors to organise the referendum.
Together with HKU Public Opinion Programme director Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, and Prof Daniel Chua, who did research on the referendum, Tai risks a three-year ban on assuming managerial posts.
For some, this is a way for him to avoid the risk of dismissal, which some Beijing loyalists had wanted.
Beijing has often accused the Occupy movement of being "sponsored" by foreigners. The charge of "anonymous donations" follows the same line.
The three defendants have countered such allegations, saying that anonymous donations are just an example of philanthropy, which is very different from sponsorships that might entail some conditions favourable to the sponsor.