A former lawmaker and barrister, Tanya Chan, has been censured by Hong Kong’s Bar Association for bringing the profession into disrepute after being convicted three years ago over public nuisance offences related to the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

Tanya Chan
Tanya Chan. File Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

After receiving a complaint over the matter last August, the disciplinary tribunal of the Bar Association released its decision on Monday, ruling that Chan incited people to commit a “reprehensible act” of causing major obstruction of normal activities in Admiralty and Central on September 27 and 28, 2014.

“However noble might be the intention… It is not difficult to imagine that at least some of the people being incited might be unwary of the serious legal consequences,” the decision read.

The tribunal said Chan has done nothing to warn her audience of the potential legal liabilities despite knowing that some may be persuaded to join the movement because of her speech, which was reinforced by her status as a former legislative councillor and barrister.

However, the panel also acknowledged Chan’s genuine intention to bring about electoral reform, and that she believed the movement to be peaceful. The ruling said the chance of re-offending was very low, too.

Chan, on the other hand, told the panel that her acts “may with hindsight and detachment be considered ill-judged,” according to the decision.

Tanya Chan
Tanya Chan. Photo: Civic Party.

Taking this into account, the tribunal censured the former lawmaker, and ordered her to pay HK$140,000 in legal costs to the Bar Council, the applicant of the misconduct complaint against Chan.

Participation in the movement

The 2014 Umbrella Movement was a major pro-democracy civil disobedience campaign, sparked by public discontent over Beijing’s proposal for electing the city’s leader. Thousands called for “true universal suffrage” as they blocked roads in Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay for 79 days from September to December of 2014.

According to the agreed facts of the misconduct case, Chan made speeches on a stage at Tim Mei Avenue – where the launch of Umbrella Movement was announced – on September 27 and 28 to incite others to cause a public nuisance.

She was said to have asked people to join the movement, told them to “hold on to the defence lines,” instructed demonstrators how to respond to police arrest, and made demands for genuine universal suffrage.

September 28, 2014 – Protestors and police face-off outside government headquarters as the Umbrella Movement begins. Photo by Todd R. Darling

Nine leading organisers, including Chan, were charged in March 2017 with various counts of conspiracy to commit public nuisance, incitement to commit public nuisance and incitement to incite public nuisance.

Her sentencing in 2019 was postponed as she needed to undergo a surgical procedure to remove a life-threatening tumour from her brain. Chan was later handed down a jail sentence of eight months, suspended for two years in 2020.

Chan served as a lawmaker from October 2008 to September 2012, then returned to the position in 2016. She left the Civic Party and refused to stay on for an extended term as the government postponed the Legislative Council (LegCo) Election in 2020.

Hong Kong police later charged 47 pro-democracy activists under the national security law over their roles in a primary election for the postponed LegCo election.

Chan has faded from Hong Kong politics and, according to local media reports, has been settled in Taiwan since mid-2021.

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Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.