Associate Professor Benny Tai, Professor Chan Kin-man, and Reverend Chu Yiu Ming have been advocating “Let Love and Peace Occupy Central” since 2013 which led to the largest civil disobedience in Hong Kong history – the Umbrella Movement. More than a million Hongkongers demanded the withdrawal of the 831 Decision made by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, particularly calling for civil rights to nominate the candidates of Chief Executive and the abolishment of the functional constituencies in the Legislative Council. Not only did the Movement politically enlighten numerous Hongkongers, but also marked a milestone in the history of social movements. In recent days, Associate Professor Tai, Professor Chan, Reverend Chu and 6 other defendants: Legislative Councillors The Hon Ms Tanya Chan, The Hon Mr Shiu Ka Chun, former Standing Committee member of Hong Kong Federation of Students Mr Cheung Sau Yin, former General Secretary of Hong Kong Federation of Students Mr Chung Yiu Wa, External Vice-chairperson of League of Social Democrats Mr Wong Ho Ming, Raphael and general member of Democratic Party Mr Lee Wing Tat, were convicted of conspiracy, incitement and incitement of others’ incitement of public nuisance. Mr Tai and Professor Chan were sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment. Reverend Chu was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 2 years. The Hon Shiu and Mr Wong were sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment. Mr Lee and Mr Chung were sentenced to 8 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 2 years. Mr Cheung was placed under a Community Service Order of 200 hours. Verdict on The Hon Chan was postponed to 10th June 2019.
This verdict is undoubtedly a blow to social movements in Hong Kong. Civil disobedience put an end to the colonial government’s monopoly of salt production in India, as well as overthrew the apartheid laws for the black Americans. However, the Umbrella Movement failed to bring a real universal suffrage to Hong Kong and the pro-communist regime is even oppressing dissidents shamelessly and outrageously with an outdated common law offence. In the face of political suppression by the regime and harsh legal punishments, social movements are weakened while the regime is getting more authoritarian. We shall under no circumstance be crippled and dissipate the efforts of protesters who are now suffering or even imprisoned by the authoritarian regime. The essence of Occupying Central is “to arouse public awareness towards injustice in the current political system and to resist so through self-sacrificing, as well as to express sincere concern over the future of this city”. As the awakened, we shall continue to enlighten other Hongkongers from all walks of life. We should never limit ourselves in turmoils, but engage and lead those around us even more actively in the face of predicament regarding the future of our city.
“I have never regarded myself as merely a scholar since 2013. I am actualizing the connection of my three identities: a scholar, a teacher and a social activist,” said Associate Professor Tai in an interview by Apple Daily before his verdict. Indeed, the three make use of different means to arrive at the same goal: social activists resist injustice in society through actions, while scholars resist intellectually to challenge longstanding problems with innovative insights. In an increasingly ridiculous society, we must acquire knowledge diligently and achieve wisdom so as to become a virtuous individual. We are with all Hongkongers and we would strive hard for our city, to inherit the spirit of pursuing democracy and protection of human rights from the predecessors.
The Hong Kong University Students’ Union
April 30th, 2019