Three leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 civil disobedience “Occupy” movement pleaded not guilty to public nuisance charges at a packed court in the Chinese-ruled city Monday where more than 100 protesters rallied in support of the activists. In a trial expected to last 20 days, three leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 civil disobedience “Occupy” movement pleaded not guilty to public nuisance charges in the Chinese-ruled city on Monday where more than 100 protesters rallied in support of the activists.
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Law professor Benny Tai, 54, sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 59, and retired pastor Chu Yiu-ming, 74, face three charges of conspiracy to commit public nuisance, incitement to commit public nuisance, and incitement to incite public nuisance, reports Reuters.
If convicted, the men could face upto seven years imprisonment for each charge.
Tai told Reuters he hoped the trial would be an opportunity to “reboot the spirit of the people”.
The protesters waved yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the pro-democracy movement, and pumped their fists ahead of the hearing as they chanted: “I want universal suffrage.”
Another protester held an umbrella with the words: “Power to the People.”
In 2013, Tai, Chan and Chu began planning a non-violent civil disobedience campaign to occupy streets in the city’s central business district should China not allow a truly democratic vote for its next leader.
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The “Occupy” campaign took hold in September 2014 and became part of what grew into the biggest populist challenge to China’s Communist party leaders since the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in Beijing in 1989.
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Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Hong Kong in sustained and continuous occupations of major roads for close to three months.
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Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula, with the guarantee of a high degree of autonomy and freedoms denied citizens in mainland China, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.