Updated: Apr 2, 2019
On November 19, 2018, the “Umbrella Nine” were brought before judges to account for their actions during the 2014 student-led protest movement known both as Occupy Central and the Umbrella Revolution.
At the beginning of the trial, the prosecution argued that the cofounders of the Occupy Central campaign (“the Trio”)—legal scholar Benny Tai Yiu-ting and sociologist Chan Kin-man, professors at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and retired pastor Reverend Chu Yiu-ming—conspired to block public roads as a calculated tactic to pressure the government.
The Trio faces counts of conspiracy to commit public nuisance, incitement to commit public nuisance, and incitement to incite public nuisance—three colonial-era criminal provisions that carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison each.
The six others are student leaders who face jail time. They include Tommy Cheung Sau-yin and Eason Chung Yiu-wah, lawmakers Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, and political leaders Raphael Wong Homing and Lee Wing-tat.
In recent years the Hong Kong government has prosecuted dozens of young protesters on charges associated to their participation in the movement and sentenced them to prison or community service. In some cases the government appealed the initial sentences for key people in the movement in order to later win harsher convictions.
The Umbrella Nine campaign advocated for the democratic election of the city’s head of government. It became part of the large-scale prodemocracy Umbrella Movement protests, which were carried out in a peaceful manner for over 79 days between September and December 2014.
Since September 2014, the Hong Kong government has arrested, incarcerated, and prosecuted many peaceful protesters, usually on ambiguous charges of “unlawful assembly,” “unauthorized assembly,” and “public disorder.” By January 2015, the authorities had arrested more than 950 people who participated in the protests during the first 79 days. The authorities also arrested another 48 people after the protests had ended on charges of “public nuisance,” “incitement to commit public nuisance,” and “incitement to incite public nuisance.” Many of the detainees were soon released; however, soon after their release, they received letters informing them that criminal investigations were still ongoing and that they could be charged again and rearrested.
More than twenty months after the protests ended in July 2016, three student leaders were convicted after climbing into Civic Square during the protest of September 26, 2014. According to a report by the Amnesty International, Joshua Wong and Alex Chow were found guilty of “taking part in an unlawful assembly,” while Nathan Law was charged with “inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly.” The court originally ordered noncustodial sentences against them, but prosecutors appealed to seek harsher penalties. Consequently, in August 2017 the student leaders were handed jail terms of six to eight months and were imprisoned before being released on bail in October and November 2017, pending an appeal. On February 2018 the Court of Final Appeal overturned the jail sentences.
The Occupy Trio
Benny Tai Yiu-ting, 54, is a law professor at the University of Hong Kong. Yiu-ting drafted the initial manifesto of Occupy Central in hopes for democratic reform toward universal suffrage in Hong Kong. Yiu-ting has been active in the political scene since his student days.
Chan Kin-man, 59, is a sociology professor, though he asked for early retirement from the university prior to the trial. More than 700 students attended his last university lecture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong on November 14, 2018. In his lecture Kin-man mentioned that he was “ready to go to jail” for his protest and reassured students that democracy will prevail in Hong Kong if they persist and don’t allow themselves be crushed.
Chu Yiu-ming, 74, minister of a Baptist Church, was one of the organizers of the Operation Yellow Bird, which brought some of the Tiananmen Square student protesters of 1989 to safety from China. He has been active in the prodemocracy movement in Hong Kong for many years.
Two Student Leaders
Tommy Cheung Sau-yin, 24, is a student of politics and public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Sau-yin has been involved in political activism since 2011 as a member of Scholarism, a group of high school students formed to oppose the introduction of the patriotic Moral and National Education curriculum in local schools.
Eason Chung Yiu-wah, 26, studied politics and public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and is a former head of the student union. He took part in the failed dialogue between the Occupy student leaders and the Hong Kong government, which ended in a stalemate.
Two ProDemocracy Lawmakers
Tanya Chan, 47, is an attorney and a founding member of the prodemocracy Civic Party. Tanya has been continually elected to the local legislature since 2008.
Shiu Ka-chun, 48, is a philosophy lecturer, social worker, and activist who was elected in 2016.
Two Former Politicians
Lee Wing-tat, 62, is a former lawmaker and the third chairman of the Democratic Party.
Raphael Wong Ho-ming, 30, is the vice chairman of the League of Social Democrats.
Timeline of the Umbrella Movement—June 20 2014 to June 24 2015.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide deplores the Hong Kong authority’s pervasive and ongoing crackdown on the members of the Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement based on their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. ESW calls on the Hong Kong government to end the practice of delayed prosecutions, a practice that has left hundreds of protesters uncertain if the government is planning to pursue charges against them. We believe that the uncertainty caused by such a practice, together with the use of vague and ambiguous charges and harsh sentences, has a chilling effect on the society as a whole.
Endangered Scholars Worldwide urges the Hong Kong government to drop the charges against the nine leaders of Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement and other protesters. We call on the Hong Kong authorities to respect, guarantee, and implement the provisions and principles of human rights as specified in international conventions and stop politically motivated prosecutions against peaceful protesters that are aimed at deterring participation in peaceful assembly and silencing critical voices. ESW further calls upon all international organizations, academic and professional associations, and other groups and individuals devoted to the promotion and defense of human rights to protest and condemn the continued prosecutions of the Occupy Central and Umbrella Movement and other democracy movements in Hong Kong.
Please send appeals to the following:
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng
Department of Justice
Secretary for Justice’s Office
5th floor, Main Wing, Justice Place,
18 Lower Albert Road, Central,
Fax: +852 39184119
Chief Executive Carrie Lam
Hong Kong Special Administrative
Region Office of the Chief Executive
Fax: +852 25090580
President Andrew Leung
Legislative Council Complex
1 Legislative Council Road, Central
Fax: +852 2537 1851