Vet­eran Hong Kong ac­tivist cleared of mis­con­duct

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Hong Kong, China - A prodemoc­racy Hong Kong law­maker who was re­cently re­moved from par­lia­ment af­ter a Bei­jing in­ter­ven­tion was cleared on Mon­day of mis­con­duct in a case he de­scribed as po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

Le­ung Kwok-hung - known lo­cally as ‘Long Hair’ - is a vet­eran ac­tivist from the League of So­cial Democrats, and had been charged by the city’s cor­rup­tion bu­reau over a pay­ment re­ceived while in pub­lic of­fice from a high-pro­file anti-Bei­jing me­dia ty­coon.

He was ac­cused of ‘wil­fully and in­ten­tion­ally’ fail­ing to de­clare HK$250,000 from the founder of Ap­ple Daily news­pa­per Jimmy Lai be­tween 2012 and 2016. The paper is highly crit­i­cal of Bei­jing.

Judge Alex Lee ac­quit­ted him ‘on ben­e­fit of doubt’ on Mon­day, say­ing the pros­e­cu­tion had failed to prove the money was a per­sonal pay­ment to Le­ung in his ca­pac­ity as law­maker, rather than a pay­ment to his party.

Le­ung had re­ceived the pay­ment into his per­sonal bank ac­count but the de­fence ar­gued it was a party do­na­tion, which meant it would not need to be de­clared.

“De­spite the sus­pi­cions I have of the de­fen­dant’s con­duct, I am not sat­is­fied that the pros­e­cu­tion has proven its case against him be­yond rea­son­able doubt,” Lee said in the judg­ment.

Le­ung’s trial came at a time when many fear semi-au­ton­o­mous Hong Kong’s free- doms are un­der threat from Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties.

Two weeks ago, he was one of four pro-democ­racy leg­is­la­tors dis­qual­i­fied from par­lia­ment by the High Court over chang­ing their oaths of of­fice to re­flect their frus­tra­tions with Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties last year.

Their re­moval came af­ter an un­prece­dented in­ter­ven­tion from Bei­jing de­mand­ing oaths be taken in a ‘solemn and sin­cere’ man­ner.

A num­ber of lead­ing democ­racy cam­paign­ers are cur­rently fac­ing court cases, in­clud­ing over their par­tic­i­pa­tion in 2014’s mass pro-democ­racy Um­brella Move­ment ral­lies.

Af­ter his ac­quit­tal, Le­ung (61) raised his arms out­side the district court as sup­port­ers gath­ered round him.

“I hope the democ­racy camp will con­tinue to stand firm in the com­ing years,” said Le­ung, wear­ing a T-shirt bear­ing the words ‘civil dis­obe­di­ence’.

How­ever, he said the rul­ing did not con­vince him the city’s ju­di­ciary was safe, de­scrib­ing it as ‘un­der at­tack’ by po­lit­i­cal forces.

Le­ung’s ac­tivism has landed him in jail sev­eral times.

In 2014, he spent four weeks be­hind bars for crim­i­nal dam­age and dis­or­derly be­hav­iour dur­ing a po­lit­i­cal protest, and in 2002, he was jailed for two weeks af­ter protest­ing in­side the leg­isla­tive coun­cil cham­bers be­fore he be­came a law­maker.

Hong Kong was re­turned to China by Bri­tain in 1997 and is ruled un­der a ‘one coun­try, two sys­tems’ deal which al­lows it much greater lib­er­ties than seen on the main­land. But there are se­ri­ous con­cerns that an ever more as­sertive Bei­jing is tram­pling over the agree­ment.

(AFP)

Pro-democ­racy law­maker Le­ung Kwok-hung speaks af­ter his ac­quit­tal, out­side the Wan Chai district court in Hong Kong on Mon­day

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