Hong Kong democracy leaders go on trial over Umbrella Movement

Occupy Central civil disobedience founders, (L-R) professor of sociology Chan Kin-man, law professor Benny Tai and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, leave a court after a pre-trial hearing in Hong Kong, China January 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Hong Kong democracy leaders go on trial over Umbrella Movement

  • Human Rights Watch said the prosecutions raised further questions about how far authorities are trying to “politicize the courts”

HONG KONG: Three leading Hong Kong democracy campaigners face trial Monday over their involvement in massive rallies calling for political reform, as room for opposition in the semi-autonomous city shrinks under an assertive China.
Rights groups have urged authorities to drop what Amnesty International called the “chilling prosecution” of nine activists — the pioneering trio, lawmakers, student leaders and pro-democracy party campaigners.
All nine face “public nuisance” charges for their participation in 2014’s Umbrella Movement protests. The charges are based on colonial-era law and carry maximum jail terms of up to seven years.
Sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 59, law professor Benny Tai, 54, and baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, 74, founded the “Occupy Central” movement in 2013.
It called for the occupation of Hong Kong’s business district if the public was not given a fair vote for the city’s leader, who is appointed by a pro-Beijing committee.
The campaign was overtaken by a student movement that exploded in September 2014 when police fired tear gas on gathering crowds.
The Occupy trio urged people to join what became known as the Umbrella Movement as protesters used umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas and pepper spray.
The movement failed to win reform and since then activists have been prosecuted, with some jailed.

Chan gave a farewell talk on Wednesday night to a full house of more than 600 people at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he has been teaching for over two decades.
“So long as we are not crushed by imprisonment and trial and do not become overly frustrated and angry, then we will become stronger and we can inspire many more people,” he told the audience, announcing his early retirement from next year.
“Only in the darkest hours, we can see the stars,” Chan added.
He told AFP ahead of the trial that he had prepared for the physical and mental challenges of possible jail time by taking up marathon running.
Chu, who has been unwell but attended Chan’s talk, said the trio had “prepared to walk on this path.”
“We were always willing to be sacrificed in order to wake up the people,” Chu told AFP.
Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” arrangement since it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997.
It allows far greater civil liberties than on the Chinese mainland, but there are growing fears those freedoms are being eroded.
Amnesty described the case as an act of retaliation aimed at silencing the democracy movement.
Man-kei Tam, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, warned there would be a “real danger” of more prosecutions for peaceful activism if the case was successful.
Human Rights Watch said the prosecutions raised further questions about how far authorities are trying to “politicize the courts.”
The trial at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court is due to begin at 9:30 am (0130 GMT) and is expected to last 20 days.


Taliban say talks focus on US withdrawal from Afghanistan

Updated 52 min 17 sec ago
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Taliban say talks focus on US withdrawal from Afghanistan

  • The Taliban say their latest talks with the US envoy focused on the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan
  • The Taliban control nearly half of Afghanistan, and are more powerful than at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban say their latest talks with the US envoy focused on the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan, the release of prisoners and halting attacks on civilians by pro-government forces.
US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban this week in the United Arab Emirates, with Saudi, Pakistani and Emirati officials also participating. The Afghan government sent a delegation to the UAE but it did not take part in the talks.
Khalilzad tweeted Wednesday that the talks were “productive,” without mentioning the Taliban by name.
Since being appointed in September, Khalilzad has met with all sides to try to restart peace talks aimed at ending America’s longest war.
The Taliban control nearly half of Afghanistan, and are more powerful than at any time since the 2001 US-led invasion.