Pro-democracy lawmaker Nathan Law has criticised the suggestion by one lawmaker that all participants in the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests should be pardoned, saying that a reconciliation in the absence of the government fixing its mistakes would just be “begging for mercy.”

Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai put forward the idea in an interview with Ming Pao, arguing that after Carrie Lam takes office as Chief Executive she should pardon all Occupy protesters – along with the eight police officers jailed or charged for incidents during the protests – to mend rifts in society.

Nathan Law wearing a yellow ribbon, a symbol of the Occupy protests, when taking oath as a lawmaker. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP.

Law, one of the student leaders during the protests, said a reconciliation is not possible before the government “tells the truth and confesses its crimes.”

“Will the government explain who was responsible for the tear gas? Who was responsible for the dozens, hundreds of injured protesters? Who will be responsible for postponing democracy?” he asked, referring to the 87 tear gas canisters used on protesters on September 28, 2014.

He added that it was never an imperative for the pro-democracy movement to fix splits in society: “If fighting for basic human rights is to blame for the social divide, then what is the point of a harmonious society?”

Oscar Lai, Yvonne Leung, Nathan Law, Lester Shum and Alex Chow.
Nathan Law (middle) during Occupy protests. File photo: HKFP.

Law said it was the international norm for amnesty and reconciliation to take place after democratic transitions.

“This is the most basic way for a democratic country to reflect on its tyrannical past. Reconciliation without the truth, without justice, without discussing right and wrong, only by ‘pragmatically’ asking for a ceasefire, is to beg for mercy by abandoning our moral power – it is drilling blood from a stone, it is suicide for civil disobedience,” he said.

Last year, Law was sentenced to 120 hours of community service for storming a square in front of government headquarters. The incident led to dozens of arrests of protesters inside the square with police later using tear gas to disperse thousands of demonstrators. A 79-day protest occupying the main roads around Hong Kong then ensued.

Deep discussion needed

Meanwhile, Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung apologised for misunderstandings over his remarks on Wu’s suggestion.

When interviewed by Ming Pao for its Tuesday front page report, Yeung said Lam’s new administration could show its “greatest sincerity” towards fixing the divisions of the past two years if it could issue an unconditional pardon.

Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu
Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Yeung later said his reply to the newspaper was preliminary and that it had not been discussed by the executive committee of his party.

“I am sorry that I created a misunderstanding for the Civic Party – I will reflect deeply,” he said. “I do agree with the direction of fixing social rifts, but as to whether a pardon should be issued to do so, I have strong reservations [towards doing so] before a deep discussion in society is held, as it is a huge matter.”

“As a politician, I must remember the meaning and cost of civil disobedience,” he added. “If the new administration wishes for reconciliation and shows the greatest sincerity in fixing splits and rebuilding trust, it should restart the democratic reform process without any prerequisites as soon as possible, in order to achieve genuine universal suffrage.”

On an RTHK programme, Yeung warned that a pardon could be a “double-edged sword.”

“We’re talking about pardoning protesters now, but would Leung Chun-ying later be pardoned for his UGL controversy?”

Wu Chi-wai
Wu Chi-wai. Photo: HKFP.

Wu said on a Commercial Radio programme that the suggestion was his personal view and not the party’s position.

He stressed that the public should not see it as an “exchange” since all sides have to think of ways to resolve divisions in society.

“As a politician, I have the responsibility to give my views,” he said.

Many pro-Beijing camp leaders have also opposed the suggestion, citing potential harm to the rule of law.

A spokesperson for the office of the Chief Executive-elect said it would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases as relevant legal proceedings are underway.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.