HK activist will not fight charge

Student leader Joshua Wong is choosing to plead guilty to a contempt of court charge.
Student leader Joshua Wong is choosing to plead guilty to a contempt of court charge.

HONG KONG • Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong, who helped lead the months-long "Umbrella Movement" in 2014 demanding full democracy, said yesterday that he would not fight a charge related to the protests in the spirit of civil disobedience.

The Hong Kong protests that Wong and others helped drive represented one of the biggest populist challenges in decades to the leaders of China's Communist Party since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro- democracy movement in Beijing.

Wong was one of 20 protesters charged with contempt of court after refusing to obey a court order to leave a protest zone in Mong Kok district. "I choose to plead guilty in this case to show, as an organiser of civil disobedience, I am willing to bear legal responsibility," Wong, 20, said outside the High Court. "Although there's a chance I might be put in jail, I have no regrets."

The former British colony that marked its 20th anniversary under Chinese rule on July 1 is governed under a "one country, two systems" formula that guarantees it a high degree of autonomy, civil liberties, an independent judiciary and the promise of universal suffrage as an "ultimate" aim.

The movement was triggered in part by Beijing's longstanding refusal to grant the city a direct vote for a new Hong Kong leader that would include pro-democracy, opposition candidates.

Although Beijing had offered Hong Kong a democratic reform blueprint for a direct vote, it envisaged the city's next leader being drawn only from candidates essentially pre-screened by a panel packed with pro-Beijing loyalists. That package was vetoed in 2015 by pro-democracy lawmakers.

Wong had previously been found guilty of unlawful assembly on a charge related to the 2014 protests, but avoided jail time.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2017, with the headline 'HK activist will not fight charge'. Print Edition | Subscribe