Umbrella movement leaders on trial for ‘public disorder'
by Paul Wang

Among the nine accused are the academic and sociologist Chan Kin-man, the law professor Benny Tai and the Baptist pastor Chu Yiu-ming. They risk up to seven years in prison. Human rights organizations: politically motivated trial.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - Nine democratic leaders of the Umbrella movement appeared on trial today, accused of "conspiracy and disturbance of public order" for organizing the sit-ins in different parts of the in 2014 city.

Three of them, the academic and sociologist Chan Kin-man, the law professor Benny Tai and the Baptist pastor Chu Yiu-ming are among those who founded a civil commitment movement for democracy in Hong Kong, which then resulted in the movement "Occupy Central". The other accused are parliamentarians and students.

For 79 days - starting September 28, 2014 - the sit-in paralyzed the central areas of the city, gathering hundreds of thousands of people, especially young people. The movement was called "the Umbrellas" because the young people used umbrellas to defend themselves from tear gas and police hydrants. It has also become famous for the high civic sense shown by the occupants who kept the spaces clean, did not resort to violence, did not inflict damage to public property.

The movement was born as a response to Beijing's decision not to allow direct election of the chief executive, putting in place a mechanism that left China in control of the candidates.

The process is a sign of the little freedom that China is leaving in Hong Kong, which should also be governed by the principle "one nation, two systems", leaving the territory a great deal of autonomy. The nine accused could face a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

A group of British politicians has prepared a motion government to approve in the British parliament condemning the Hong Kong that "uses vague and ambiguous accusations of the law to intimidate and silence pro-democratic personalities". The current head of the executive, Carrie Lam, responded by saying that foreign politicians should not "interfere in the internal affairs of the city".

According to many human rights organizations, the trail is "politically motivated". Upon arrival in front of the court, the nine were greeted by many supporters, equipped with umbrellas, who shouted slogans: "Peaceful resistance! I want universal suffrage! "