Nine pro-democracy activists facing charges for participating in a protest last year have accused the government of using the law to silence dissenting voices.

The activists were arrested last month for their involvement in a protest last November against an impending Basic Law interpretation by Beijing. They face charges of participating in an unlawful assembly, obstructing and assaulting police officers, and inciting disorderly conduct in public places.

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The nine defendants. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

They appeared in the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on Friday. The court accepted their request to postpone the mention hearing to July 21 while they apply for duty lawyer services. The defendants were each ordered to post HK$1,000 bail.

They chanted slogans outside the court, saying that their are fearless and committed to civil disobedience.

“Resist [Chinese President] Xi Jinping. Take to the street on July 1,” they shouted.

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They also referred to a series of prosecutions in recent weeks, saying that the government was attempting to silence the opposition camp ahead of July 1, which marks the 20th anniversary of the transfer of sovereign over Hong Kong.

“The government wants political cleansing now so that fewer people will take to the street on July 1, creating an illusion that Hong Kong is peaceful,” said Demosisto activist Derek Lam, 23, one of the defendants.

Ousted lawmakers Yau Wai-ching and Baggio Leung Chung-hang attended the hearing as observers on Friday. They did not give any speech and left as soon as the hearing ended.

“We came here to show solidarity with people who are facing the same kind of oppression,” Yau told HKFP. “After all, the protest [last November] against Beijing’s interpretation of the Basic Law had some connection with us.”

‘Chilling effect’

Defendant Chow Shu-wing, 66, told HKFP that he was not worried about the prosecution, even though it was his first time to face charges after years of activism.

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Chow Shu-wing (centre). Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

“You expect oppression when you take to the street,” he said. “I just think that the government is very foolish. I think they are trying to create a chilling effect to prevent people from taking to the street when Xi Jinping visits the city around the time of July 1.”

“I think the round-ups are meant to be a show for Beijing. But oppression will only trigger more people to come out,” he added.

But Agnes Tong, a part-time accountant in her 50s who turned up at Friday’s solidarity protest, told HKFP that she believes the series of recent prosecutions will deter people from taking part in protests in the future.

“If the government prosecute people every time after a protest, it will gradually silence us. We can’t speak out and will have to obey the government,” she said.

Friday’s hearing was related to a protest that took place on November 6 last year, when around 4,000 people tried to gather outside the China Liaison Office – Beijing’s organ in Hong Kong – against police instructions. Clashes between police and protesters ensued, with pepper spray and police dogs deployed.

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The protest last November. Photo: Trey Menefee.

The nine activists facing prosecution are:

  • Avery Ng, Dickson Chau Ka-faat and Chan Man-wai of the League of Social Democrats.
  • Derek Lam Shun-hin and Ivan Lam Long-yin of the Demosisto party.
  • Sammy Ip and Lo Tak-cheong of the group Student Fight for Democracy.
  • Cheng Pui-lun, the former president of Lingnan University’s student union.
  • Chow Shu-wing of People Power.
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Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.