September 26, 2017
The Hong Kong government must drop prosecutions aimed at having a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the city, Amnesty International said ahead of the third anniversary of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.
Three years on from the start of the unprecedented 79-day protest in late 2014, scores of protesters, who were arrested for their involvement in the largely peaceful protests, remain in legal limbo, uncertain if they will face charges.
“Three years since the Umbrella Movement protests, a cloud of uncertainty hangs over Hong Kong. The government’s stance is having a chilling effect on peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong.
“The government must drop prosecutions which have the effect of deterring people from participating in peaceful protests, particularly on sensitive issues such as Hong Kong’s autonomy and democracy. The authorities’ continued obfuscation has left protesters in legal limbo and is detrimental to human rights in Hong Kong.”
According to government figures, 955 people were arrested during the Umbrella Movement. After the protests, the government further arrested 48 people, mostly key individuals involved in the pro-democracy demonstrations. They were arrested for a range of offences including “unlawful assembly” and ”unauthorized assembly”.
Many of them were released after their arrest, but police notified them that criminal investigations were still ongoing and they would be re-arrested and charged, should there be sufficient evidence to prosecute them.
Among the 48 prominent activists who were arrested after the Umbrella Movement protests were Associate Professor Benny Tai, Rev. Chu Yiu-ming and Chan Kin-man, arrested for “unlawful assembly” in 2015. In March this year, the charges were changed to “public nuisance”, ambiguous charges with a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.