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.


Pakistan reopens airspace to civil aviation after India standoff

Updated 16 July 2019
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Pakistan reopens airspace to civil aviation after India standoff

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan opened its airspace to civil aviation on Tuesday, following months of restrictions imposed in the wake of a standoff with neighboring India.
“With immediate effect Pakistan airspace is open for all type of civil traffic on published ATS (Air Traffic Service) routes,” according to a so-called Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) published on the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority’s website.
The move by Pakistan, which lies in the middle of a vital aviation corridor, offers a welcome break for international airlines after the airspace restrictions affected hundreds of commercial and cargo flights each day, adding to flight time for passengers and fuel costs for airlines.
India’s ministry of civil aviation said that after the lifting of the NOTAMS, there were no further restrictions on airspace in either country.
“Flights have started using the closed air routes, bringing a significant relief for airlines,” it said.
Pakistan closed its airspace in February after an attack by a Pakistan-based militant group in Indian-controlled Kashmir led to an armed standoff between the two nuclear-armed powers.
Both countries carried out aerial attacks over the other’s territory and warplanes fought a brief dogfight over the skies of the disputed Kashmir region during which an Indian fighter jet was shot down.
Partial operations at Pakistani airports resumed once the immediate crisis passed but restrictions continued to affect many international carriers using Pakistani airspace.
Pakistan’s announcement came hours after United Airlines Holdings Inc. said it was extending the suspension of its flights from the United States to Delhi and Mumbai in India until Oct. 26, citing continued restrictions of Pakistani airspace.