HONG KONG • Student leader Joshua Wong and three other Hong Kong pro-democracy activists entered "not guilty" pleas in court yesterday over charges related to an anti-China protest last year.
They have accused the city authorities of a witch-hunt against political campaigners after a contentious Beijing-backed reform package was vetoed last month.
The rejection of the government's Bill was an unprecedented rebuke to Beijing and left the city politically polarised.
Wong, 18, the teenage face of the pro-democracy movement, is charged with obstructing police at a small peaceful protest in June 2014 - before large-scale democracy rallies gripped the city.
Facing the same charge are Nathan Law, 22, leader of Hong Kong's major university student union, and activists Raphael Wong and Albert Chan - a legislator for the People Power party.
They were among dozens who had gathered outside Beijing's representative office in Hong Kong to oppose a "White Paper" from China that asserted its control over the semi-autonomous city. A reproduction of the document was burned at the event.
The student leader spoke only to confirm his plea. "Joshua Wong is not guilty," he said.
Judge Bina Chainrai questioned why the four had been arrested and brought to court only after more than a year. She said a stay of proceedings could be sought by the defence.
The case has been adjourned to Aug 28 for a pre-trial review.