HONG KONG (Reuters) – More than 100 protesters gathered yesterday before a court in Hong Kong in support of three leaders of the "Occupy" movement of civil disobedience in the city governed by China in 2014, which are facing charges of disorder public.
(LR) Pro-democracy activists Chung Yiu-wa, Cheung Sau-yin, Lee Wing-tat, Chu Yiu-ming, Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man, Tanya Chan, Shiu Ka-chun and Raphael Wong pose outside a court Hong Kong, China, November 19, 2018. REUTERS / Bobby Yip
Law professor Benny Tai, 54, sociologist professor Chan Kin-man, 59, and retired pastor Chu Yiu-ming, 74, face three conspiracy allegations to commit public harassment, incitement to commit public harassment and incitement to incite the public disturbance.
Each charge has a maximum term of seven years in prison. Six others are also accused of a case that comes when the civil liberties of the financial center are under increasing tension.
The protesters waved yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the pro-democracy movement, and pumped their fists as they sang: "I want universal suffrage".
Another demonstrator held an umbrella with the words: "Power to the People".
In 2013, the trio began to promulgate and plan a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign to occupy the streets in the city's central financial district, if China did not allow a truly democratic vote for its next leader.
The "Occupy" campaign sprouted in September 2014 and became part of what became the biggest populist challenge to the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party after the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in Beijing in 1989.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong in continuous and continuous occupations of main roads for almost three months.
The other six defendants include the veteran member of the Democratic Party Lee Wing-tat, the Democratic MP Tanya Chan, the activist Raphael Wong and the student leader Tommy Cheung and Eason Chung.
The case could have repercussions on hundreds of other demonstrators who have not yet been charged.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese domination in 1997 with a "one country, two systems" formula, guaranteeing a high degree of autonomy and freedom denied to the citizens of mainland China, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.
However, critics who include foreign governments, work groups and activists say the guarantee is becoming increasingly empty.
The US-China Economic and Security Review Committee warned in a congressional report last week that China had "intensified its interference" with Hong Kong and "closed the political space for pro-democracy activists to express the discontent ".
Reporting by James Pomfret; Montage of Paul Tait