Chief Executive Carrie Lam has hit out against eight British MPs after they condemned the charges against the nine leading figures of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests.

The British MPs put forward a motion in UK parliament expressing concern over the “vague and ambiguous charges” the activists will face at Monday’s trial. They described the charges as being “apparently intended to intimidate and silence pro-democracy figures” in Hong Kong.

The defendants, who include Occupy Central co-founders Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-Ming, have been charged with various common law offences of public nuisance, which are punishable for up to seven years.

Over 100 pro-democracy protesters have been charged, and many jailed, on the basis of common law charges, “which curtail[s] freedom of expression and have been criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee,” the MPs said.

Fiona Bruce Catherine West
Fiona Bruce and Catherine West. Photo: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament.

They urged the UK government to raise the issue with the Hong Kong government and take further action, “in view of our commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

The eight MPs include Fiona Bruce – who tabled the motion – Bob Blackman and Peter Bottomley of the Conservative Party; Jim Cunningham, Catherine West and Mary Glindon of the Labour Party; Jim Shannon of the Democratic Unionist Party and Christopher Stephens of the Scottish National Party.

The Occupy protests erupted in Hong Kong after Beijing ruled that a 1,200-member nomination committee – mostly controlled by Beijing loyalists – would vet chief executive candidates before a popular vote. Demonstrators occupied major roads in the city for 79 days.

‘Clear inference of internal affairs’

Carrie Lam responded on Monday that the prosecution was made under the premise of judicial independence and rule of law.

“Under the Basic Law, the prosecution’s decision is solely made by the secretary for justice. I, as the chief executive, will not decide on or interfere with a prosecution decision,” she said, from Papua New Guinea, where she had been attending APEC meetings.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

“However, a foreign government or foreign parliamentarians have asked us to make certain decisions on the prosecution – I believe this is a clear inference of internal affairs and is highly undesirable,” she added.

The nine facing charges are Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming; lawmakers Shiu Ka-chun and Tanya Chan, activist Raphael Wong and former student leaders Tommy Cheung and Eason Chung, and former lawmaker Lee Wing-tat.

umbrella movement occupy trial

The co-founders face three charges of conspiracy to cause public nuisance, inciting others to cause public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance. Lee faces one charge of inciting others to cause public nuisance and the others face two charges of inciting others to cause public nuisance, and inciting people to incite others to cause public nuisance.

International NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called for the charges against the defendants to be dropped, in statements released last week.

The hearing is expected to last 20 days.

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.