The police have decided not to charge eight people with loitering after arresting them during last Wednesday’s protests against the extradition bill.
The eight, including seven men and one woman, were unconditionally released. The police said there was not enough evidence to file charges against them after they conducted an investigation and sought legal advice.
Under local law, any person who loiters in a public place – or in the common parts of any building – with intent to commit an arrestable offence, is liable to a fine of HK$10,000 and to imprisonment for six months.
But Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said on Facebook that protesters should not celebrate too early, saying that she was arrested and unconditionally released twice for participating in the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests. She was later arrested for the third time in 2017 and charged with a different crime.
She was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, earlier this month.
“At a police station in 2015, police stopped me from meeting my lawyer on my own, and refused to provide a written record (I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true),” she wrote. “I am not asking you to live in fear, but to know the reality, protect yourself and live your life.”
Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds to disperse protesters who were occupying main roads in Admiralty last Wednesday. As the clearance began, both Police Commissioner Stephen Lo and Chief Executive Carrie Lam initially called the protest a “riot.” Those charged with rioting can face a decade behind bars.
Some protesters were arrested whilst seeking treatment in hospitals.
Lo said on Monday that 32 were arrested last Wednesday. Of those, he said 15 were involved in violent crimes, involving five who were arrested for rioting. Police have received 34 complaints in relation to the operation, he said.
Hong Kong has seen the largest protests in its history amid government plans to update the city’s extradition laws to cover territories with which there are no prior agreements. Introduced in February in response to a Taiwan murder, the since-postponed bill would allow case-by-case fugitive transfers to other jurisdictions – such as China – without legislative oversight. The plan prompted a chorus of criticism from democrats, lawyers, journalists, foreign politicians and businesses, who say the mainland lacks human rights protections.
The extradition bill was suspended by the government following the clashes. Lam made an apology to the public, but did not accept protesters’ demands that the bill be entirely withdrawn, the characterisation of “riot” retracted, or for her to resign.
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