A court in Hong Kong has announced prison sentence for the democratic activists associated with umbrella movement in Hong Kong for the crime that their movement had caused problems to the common people when 79 days movement had spread in the city; according to the judgment the streets were affected and public nuisance was caused. The punishment is up to 16 months, considered tough from the point of view of the accusations. The movement was led in 2014 by top class intellectuals as Professors Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man, and influential pastor Chu Yiu-ming, these were supported by large section of the youth who all wanted to carry on the democratic reforms in Hong Kong which exist under the One Country Two Systems, where China has been able to contain the spread of democratic values and forces thinking that these may cause harm to its own existence of suppressive regime.
There is ongoing fight at the political-social level where civil disobedience movement in the form of Umbrella movement has tried to place its genuine democratic demands but the authorities have succeeded in limiting its spread. The recent judgment has come as a jolt for the democratic movement in the city state. There is fear among the free expression and speech group that Chinese system may finally prevent the growth of the free and democratic society as it has practiced the authoritarian regime in mainland, same policies it wants to adopt in permanent way for the previous British colony. The issue is therefore is of larger significance which involves conflict between the democratic ideas vs authoritarian way of living.
It is to be noted down that Mr.Chu is quite old and is suffering from illness, hence his sentence has been postponed for two years; he is man of eminence and clout in the city whose moral activism has supported in the growth of the movement. He will not immediately serve the prison but his failing age may require young ones to continue the movement but their leadership will now be behind the prison. This may bring some lull in the political activism of the Umbrella movement but a shining light was that all activists when reached the court were greeted by the chants of ‘Add Oil!’, suggesting the encouragement. It shows that there is strong public spirit behind the organizers of the civil disobedience movement, technically known as Occupy Central With Love and Peace.
In this background the Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2018 gives some relevant idea about the status of human rights in the Hong kong. The report says that ‘Civil liberties in Hong Kong are increasingly being undermined by the growing interference of the central government, 20 years after the city returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.Opposition political parties and their supporters faced greater harassment from authorities. In April, the Companies Registry rejected the application of the Hong Kong National Party on grounds that the promotion of “Hong Kong independence is against the Basic Law.” During President Xi’s visit to Hong Kong, local and mainland police followed, harassed, and arrested some peaceful pro-democracy protesters. In April, Hong Kong police arrested 11 pro-democracy advocates on charges including “unlawful assembly” and “obstructing police.” The charges stem from the advocates’ protest against a decision by China’s top legislative body forcing Hong Kong courts to disqualify two pro-independence legislators. In July, a Hong Kong court disqualified four more pro-democracy lawmakers for modifying their oaths swearing allegiance to China in a 2016 ceremony. In March, two mainland government advisers said the central government will rely more on “legal means”—suggesting manipulation of the territory’s legal system—to strengthen central control. In April, the chief of legal affairs at the China Liaison Office in Hong Kong said the “one country, two systems” principle could be abolished altogether if the city “fails to actively defend the sovereignty” of China. In June mainland officials declared that the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which states that Hong Kong enjoys “a high degree of autonomy” except in foreign affairs and defense, “no longer has any realistic meaning.”In August, a Hong Kong appeals court sentenced pro-democracy student leaders Alex Chow, Nathan Law, and Joshua Wong to six to eight months in prison. The three had earlier been convicted of crimes related to “unlawful assembly” for peaceful protests at the time of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, and were given community sentences by a lower court. In a politically motivated move, the secretary of justice, a political appointee, sought a harsher prison sentence for the trio. Also in August, the same court convicted 13 defendants of unlawful assembly for another anti-government protest in 2014. The 13, who had previously been sentenced to community service, were given prison terms of between 8 and 13 months after the Justice Department sought a review of their sentences. In October, the Court of Final Appeal released Chow, Law, and Wong on bail, pending appeal.’
After the conviction and the HRW report the moot question is-in which direction the Hong Kong Umbrella movement will move? The movement being civil disobedience in nature in is destined to continue at surface and at the undercurrent level. As the historical evidences show the civil disobedience movements in whole of the world finally got the success. Umbrella movement can assure itself for the same in near future.
Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava is associated with CSJM University and CSSP Kanpur. Recent publication includes ‘Ambedkar and Constitutionalism’, Mainstream, April 14, 2019. email@example.com