A 71-year-old retiree accused of taking part in a chaotic protest against pro-democracy lawmaker Nathan Law told a court on Monday that there is nothing wrong with opposing Hong Kong independence.

The man, surnamed Lau, appeared at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts over a charge of participating in an unlawful assembly in connection to the protest, which took place at the Hong Kong International Airport on January 8.

West Kowloon Law Courts Building
West Kowloon Law Courts Building. File Photo: Wikicommons.

On Monday, Lau shouted from the courtroom’s dock: “What is wrong with opposing Hong Kong independence?” He told the magistrate that he would not make a mitigation plea even if he was convicted, according to Ming Pao.

Lau was granted bail on the condition that he is not allowed to communicate with the prosecution witnesses directly or indirectly.

Four others – aged 53 to 72 – have also been charged with participating in an unlawful assembly. They face an additional charge of common assault. They and Lau will appear before the magistrate’s court together on Friday.

Several people cheered as Lau left the court, with some shouting slogans against Hong Kong independence, newspaper Sing Tao reported.

In January, Law was surrounded at the airport by pro-China protesters following a trip to Taiwan, where he and three other pro-democracy leaders were attending a forum hosted by independence-leaning New Power Party.

Nathan Law Kwun-chung
Nathan Law Kwun-chung. Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Law was allegedly assaulted by the group at the airport’s arrival hall. His shirt was torn and his glasses flew off, and he was also sprayed with a liquid.

The lawmaker later presented photographs showing a large red bruise near his neck and multiple bruises on his limbs.

The offence of participating in an unlawful assembly carries a maximum penalty of five years behind bars, while offenders of common assault face up to a year imprisonment.

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