A Year After Protests, Hong Kong Students Charged


Two pro-democracy student activists in Hong Kong have been charged with illegal assembly for storming government headquarters last year.

Alex Chow Yong-kang, 25, is the former leader of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and a student of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Hong Kong. Joshua Wong Chi-fung, 18, is the leader of the student group Scholarism and attended United Christian College and the Open University of Hong Kong. Wong was one of TIME’s most influential teens of 2014 and was nominated for Person of the Year. Fortune Magazine listed him as one of 2015′s greatest leaders.

They were told to report to police headquarters on August 27th, according to Farah Master of Reuters.

Two other protesters, Nathan Law Kwun-chung (who is HKFS’s sitting Secretary General) and Derek Lam Shun-hin, will also likely face charges.

Chow and Wong participated in a protest in Hong Kong on September 26th, 2014. In response to Beijing’s decision to rule out free elections for Hong Kong’s next leader, students broke into government headquarters by scaling fences and occupying the building, writes Katie Nelson of the Shanghaiist. This triggered two months of Occupy Central protests, including 100,000 demonstrators at its height. The protesters sought true democracy in Hong Kong.

The South China Morning Post quoted Lam on the delay over charges:

I’m surprised I’m to be arrested next week some 11 months after the event.

Wong wrote on Facebook that:

[It's a] joke that citizens have to face prosecution for entering an open public space.

Chow said that the charges are political revenge, according to Ejinsight. This would not be the first time that political revenge has driven reactions to citizens’ push for democracy; the slander of Johannes Chan, a law school professor at the University of Hong Kong, saw him accused of “dereliction of duty” as Dean after opening up about his pro-democracy beliefs. Because of these accusations, he was passed up for a promotion.

Suzanne Sataline of the Boston Globe quoted Peter Mathieson, HKU’s president since April 2014. He said of Johannes Chan and his career:

This is not about who gets appointed as a vice president. It’s not about any individual candidate, or the chief executive. This is about issues surrounding relations between mainland China and Hong Kong. People are very anxious when any of our independent processes are not fully free and independent.

Eva Pils, a reader in transnational law at King’s College in London, is a former associate professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong and studied law in Beijing. When asked who was responsible for the cruel rumors about Chan, she said it was obviously Beijing:

What else could it be? You create discord and internal divisions. That’s a sure way of heating up feelings and anger. Johannes Chan is part of academic elite expressing support for Occupy Central. They don’t want this voice in mainland China, and they don’t want it in Hong Kong, either.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students was formed in 1958 to promote student involvement in political affairs. Members took part in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Scholarism was founded in 2011 in protest of the moral and national education program (MNE), which praised communism and Chinese nationalism while condemning democracy and republicanism.