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.


Trump becomes first foreign leader to meet Japan’s new emperor

Updated 18 min 40 sec ago
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Trump becomes first foreign leader to meet Japan’s new emperor

TOKYO: Donald Trump on Monday became the first foreign leader to meet with Japan’s newly enthroned Emperor Naruhito — an honor Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes will help charm the US president when it comes to thorny trade talks.
The palace visit in the morning, followed by a royal banquet in the evening, was the main event in a feel-good trip that started Saturday and has seen Abe and Trump playing golf, eating out, watching sumo and generally enjoying an all-Japanese weekend.
Dining with Abe and their wives at a typical Tokyo grill restaurant on Sunday, Trump said he “had a great time” and was looking forward to meeting Naruhito, who took the Chrysanthemum Throne only three weeks ago, after his father stepped down in the first abdication in two centuries.
“Tomorrow is really the main event — a very important event in the history of Japan. It’s over 200 years since something like this has happened. So it’s a great honor to be representing the United States,” Trump said.
After calling on Naruhito in the morning, Trump and his avowed close friend Abe will meet for summit talks and have lunch, before holding a press conference.
On Sunday, they grinned for a selfie and praised each other’s golf game. Before the dinner, Abe also accompanied Trump to a sumo tournament where the US president presented a gigantic trophy, brought from the United States, to the champion wrestler.
Abe hopes those good vibes will spread into talks on trade, military ties, the stumbling efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and a growing superpower rivalry between Washington and Beijing.
Within an hour of touching down in Tokyo, Trump railed against what he sees as a trade imbalance between the world’s top and third-largest economies and vowed to make the relationship “a little bit more fair.”
But on Sunday, Trump struck a softer note, saying that “much” of that deal would wait until Abe faces upper house elections likely in July — as rumors swirl that the popular prime minister will combine that vote with a snap general election.
With his trade war against China getting bogged down, Trump won’t want to rock the boat for his closest Asian ally.
Top Japanese and American trade negotiators spent more than two hours locked in talks on Saturday night but failed to achieve a breakthrough, although the Japanese side said there was more “understanding” between the two sides.

Loving Chairman Kim
On North Korea, Trump appeared to undercut his own national security adviser, the hawkish John Bolton, by downplaying two recent short-range missile tests by Kim which raised tensions in the region.
“North Korea fired off some small weapons, which disturbed some of my people, and others, but not me,” Trump tweeted.
“I have confidence that Chairman Kim will keep his promise to me.”
Before Trump landed in Tokyo, Bolton had told reporters there was “no doubt” that the launches contravened UN Security Council resolutions, the first time a senior US administration official has said this.
The issue is bound to come up as the leaders meet families of people abducted by North Korea during the Cold War era to train Pyongyang’s spies, an emotive issue in Japan that Abe has pressed Trump to raise in talks with Kim.
The nationalist Abe himself has frequently offered to meet Kim to solve the “abductee problem,” as it is known in Japan.
On Tuesday, Trump is expected to address troops at a US base in Japan, highlighting the military alliance between the two allies.
His visit there will underline another big US priority — arms sales to Japan, which is considering revamping its air force with advanced US F-35 warplanes.