Hong Kong’s last British governor has said the verdict on the nine leading activists of Hong Kong’s 2014 Umbrella Movement was “appallingly divisive.”

The nine leading activists were convicted of public nuisance charges on Tuesday relating to the 79-day protest.

Chris Patten
Chris Patten. Photo: HKFP.

The Umbrella Movement was the biggest pro-democracy protest in the city’s history, and saw thousands occupying Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay from September to December of 2014.

Our round-up of reactions:

Lord Patten of Barnes, the last UK Governor of Hong Kong:

At a time when most people would have thought that the aim of the Hong Kong Government should be to bring the whole community together it seems appallingly divisive to use anachronistic common law charges in a vengeful pursuit of political events which took place in 2014.

Amnesty International Hong Kong:

Today’s guilty verdicts are a crushing blow for freedom of expression and peaceful protest in Hong Kong. The government has used vague charges in their relentless persecution of the Umbrella Nine. The government is increasingly using prosecutions as a political tool to target peaceful activists… We urge the government to cease this chilling assault against people legitimately exercising their right to freedom of expression.

Gyde Jensen, Chair of the German Bundestag Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid:

It is alarming that human rights activists and pro-democracy leaders are increasingly at risk in Hong Kong. We cannot accept that protestors are intimidated when they exercise their right to freedom of expression and to peaceful demonstration.

Gyde Jensen
Gyde Jensen. Photo: Facebook/Gyde Jensen.
Martin Patzelt, CDU member of the Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid and the Committee Rapporteur for freedom of expression:

I condemn the use of outdated and bad legislation against proponents of democratic values and principles. The laws were already severely criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee for curtailing freedom of expression. As rapporteur for freedom of the press and expression I believe strongly that freedom of expression is an important asset that needs to be protected. This kind of intimations against people demonstrating from freedoms harm the positive development of Hong Kong. I appeal to China to comply with their commitments and preserve the high degree of autonomy including an independent judiciary, freedom of the press and freedom of expression. I therefore demand of China the immediate stop this campaign of political prosecution by the Hong Kong government and demand from the international community support of the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong.

umbrella movement activist court
Photo: Ezra Cheung.
Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch:

Hong Kong courts, by labeling peaceful protests in pursuit of rights as public nuisance, are sending a terrible message that will likely embolden the government to prosecute more peaceful activists, further chilling free expression in Hong Kong.

U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, Chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio:

Since the 2014 Umbrella Movement, the Communist Chinese Government has increased its interference in Hong Kong’s affairs and the Hong Kong government has been complicit in actively suppressing political participation and speech. The past year has been particularly troubling, as Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework—on which U.S.-Hong Kong relations depend—continues to be eroded. The charges and verdicts against the ‘Umbrella Nine’ effectively punish peaceful political dissent and narrow the space for free expression and peaceful assembly. We urge the Hong Kong government to vigorously defend the rule of law and the freedoms on which Hong Kong’s many economic successes have been built.

Pro-democracy Hong Kong political group Demosisto:

Demosisto is appalled by the verdict of the nine leaders of the Occupy Central movement. We believe in the right to peaceful assembly, and to aspirations for a better, more democratic society. Five years ago, the Umbrella Movement was a light that brought together parts of the fragmented society, it is a shame that today’s verdict and political prosecution seeks to go the opposite direction and tear apart Hong Kong society, suppressing any and all opposing voice. Members of both the British Parliament and the German Bundestag have already condemned the decision, perceiving it as an “intimidation” and a “vengeful pursuit” by the Hong Kong government. Demosisto agrees with the United Nations whose report on Hong Kong in 2013 has already stated that the current Public Order Ordinance can cause excessive restrictions on the Covenant rights guaranteed by the ICCPR. The Ordinance is an anachronistic law which is now manipulated to monger fear. The verdict today creates a chilling effect in Hong Kong society, it will be increasingly difficult for anyone to express their opinions and to disagree with the government. We stand in solidarity with our friends, and are grateful for their courage and sense of justice. The fight is not over, and we urge our friends both in Hong Kong and abroad to show them that they are not alone.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang:
The central government resolutely supports [Hong Kong] in punishing the main organisations and planners of the illegal Occupy Central movement in accordance with the law
Spokesperson for European Union Foreign Affairs & Security Policy Maja Kocijančič:

I would underline that the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are essential in Hong Kong’s success. But this recent wave of judicial cases related to political activism could have a detrimental affect on its democratic development and we are looking forward to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to resume electoral reform in line with the Basic Law and to reach an agreement on an electoral system that is democratic, fair, open, transparent and meets the Hong Kong people’s aspirations for universal suffrage.

Kong Tsung-gan‘s new collection of essays – narrative, journalistic, documentary, analytical, polemical, and philosophical – trace the fast-paced, often bewildering developments in Hong Kong since the 2014 Umbrella Movement. As Long As There Is Resistance, There Is Hope is available exclusively through HKFP with a min. HK$200 donation. Thanks to the kindness of the author, 100 per cent of your payment will go to HKFP’s critical 2019 #PressForFreedom Funding Drive. 

funding drive press for freedom kong tsung-gan

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.