Trials in Hong Kong revive memories of 2014 democracy protests

Demonstrator severely beaten by police jailed for resisting arrest and assault

Pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang speaks to members of the media after his trial at the Kowloon City Magistrates Court in Hong Kong. Photograph: Jerome Favre/EPA

Pro-democracy activist Ken Tsang speaks to members of the media after his trial at the Kowloon City Magistrates Court in Hong Kong. Photograph: Jerome Favre/EPA

 

This week sees two trials in Hong Kong that will revive memories of the 2014 democracy protests as seven policemen stand accused of brutally beating demonstrator Ken Tsang Kin-chiu after his arrest, and Mr Tsang himself was jailed for five weeks for assault and resisting arrest.

Footage on local broadcaster TVB in October 2014 that appeared to show Mr Tsang being dragged to a doorway and kicked and beaten by a circle of police was widely shared on social media, while police testified during the trial that he threw what smelled like urine at them from an overpass.

Mr Tsang was freed on bail and the Civic Party member and social worker has said he will appeal.

Hong Kong’s courts are currently starting to hear the cases of more than 1,000 people who were arrested during the Occupy protests.

During Mr Tsang’s conviction at Kowloon City Court last week, presiding magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen said he had shown “hostility” by pouring the liquid on the police below, while his lawyer Robert Pang Yiu-hung said he was the victim of a much serious assault than the one of which he was accused.

The demonstrations shut the city down from over two months as Occupy protesters, carrying yellow umbrellas, occupied large swathes of downtown and Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, calling for universal suffrage in the former British colony.

The Basic Law, a mini-constitution agreed by Britain and China before Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, gives the territory a high degree of autonomy including limited democracy and freedom of speech, but many feel those rights are being worn down by Beijing.

The protesters want direct elections for the territory’s next leader, demands which have been rejected by Beijing.

The Hong Kong protests caused great irritation in Beijing and there is a perception that it has reacted by starting to impose Chinese law in Hong Kong, such as in the case of the apparent rendition of publishers and booksellers with anti-mainland views by Chinese security agents.

There appears to be growing support among young people especially for a radical group of young activists called Localism. During Chinese New Year in February, a demonstration by street hawkers protesting against a crackdown on illegal food stalls in Mong Kok turned into a running street battle and Localism were named by police as ringleaders.

In recent weeks, Beijing has sought to ease tensions in relations with Hong Kong.

Zhang Dejiang, head of the Hong Kong and Macau affairs office as well as chairman of the National People’s Congress standing committee, struck a conciliatory tone during a visit this month, meeting moderate democrats and pledging support for Hong Kong’s future.

With Legislative Council polls set for September, and with Hong Kong’s leader Leung Chun-ying facing an election next March to decide whether he leads Hong Kong for another five years, Mr Zhang expressed Beijing’s support for the territory’s embattled chief executive.