Twenty ‘Occupy’ activists guilty of contempt of court
Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Lester Shum Ngo-fai, leading activists in the 2014 ‘‘Occupy Central” movement, were found guilty of contempt of court by the High Court on Friday for obstructing a court-ordered clearance of a key demonstration site during the protests.
The court also convicted 18 other demonstrators.
According to Hong Kong law, there is no maximum penalty for contempt of court. Presiding judge Andrew Chan Hing-wai will hand down the respective sentences at a later date.
This case marks Wong’s second ‘Occupy’-related conviction. In August, the student activist was sentenced to an immediate six-month prison term along with two other student activists — Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang — for their role in the violent storming into a restricted area in front of the Hong Kong government headquarters, which triggered the illegal movement in 2014.
Friday was Wong’s 21st birthday. The young activist, who made his appearance at the courtroom, could face an extension of his jail term.
Chan gave the verdict that the 20 were “interfering with the execution of the injunction order” by bailiff officers who had acted on a court order sought by taxi and minibus drivers to clear an occupied road junction in business district Mong Kok in November, 2014. The activists refused to leave the area despite repeated warnings, according to the written judgment.
The judge argued the protesters were “well aware” of the injunction order through massive media coverage, public announcements and on-site announcements made five times; protesters were repeatedly warned of the possibility of being arrested for suspected criminal contempt of court if they wouldn’t leave.
The defense argued that the necessary criminal intention for criminal contempt was the intention to interfere with the administration of justice, mere presence at the scene only amounted to civil contempt, which bares lighter punishment.
However, the judge rejected the arguments. He said that according to the legal principles of criminal contempt of court, the respondents needed only to be proved to have the intention to remain in the occupied area and this was likely to prejudice or interfere with the administration of justice. The judgment said this was clearly shown by evidence presented.
Whether each respondent did in fact obstruct or interfere with those who were responsible for the clearance was not part of the legal requirement, according to the judgment.
Previously, Wong and Shum — former secretarygeneral of the Hong Kong Federation of Students — and nine others had pleaded guilty to committing contempt of court.
The other nine defendants denied the charges. Among them was Raphael Wong Ho-ming, a social activist and vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats. He is now serving a sentence for unlawful assembly after trying to storm into the Legislative Council building during a protest against a government new-town development plan in 2014.