Two Hong Kong students who rose to fame during pro-democracy demonstrations that angered Beijing last year were charged on Tuesday with obstructing police during a protest earlier in the year.
The charges were related to a protest outside the office of China’s top official in the city, the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, on June 11 last year.
Joshua Wong, the thin, bespectacled head of student activist group, Scholarism, and Nathan Law, secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, were charged at a police station in Hong Kong, then released on bail and told to report to court on Friday, according to police documents they showed reporters.
Wong said the evidence against him was weak and he did not see himself obstructing police in a video shown to him at the police station. Law said he saw some pushing and shoving but needed to discuss with his lawyer what to do next.
He said less than 30 people took part in the June 11 protest. He confirmed that they had burnt a copy of a controversial policy paper from China’s State Council that reminded Hong Kong that there were limits to its freedom.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to Chinese Communist Party rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” form of government that gave it separate laws and wide-ranging autonomy but reserved ultimate authority for Beijing.
“Obviously, the police have their own political agenda, which is to crack down on activists like us,” Wong told reporters.
“Being involved in the action to take back Civic Square on Sept. 26 was the best decision I have made in the four years I have been involved in the social movement and student movement,” he said.
“I do not regret it … even if I need to pay the price, go to court and even to jail.”
Wong’s lawyer, Michael Vidler, said Wong had not been formally arrested but “invited” to attend court.
“They decided not to arrest Joshua but simply charge him today. He’s actually not on police bail, they’ve just invited him to attend court on Sept. 2,” Vidler said. “I must say, in the 20-odd years I’ve been in Hong Kong, I’ve never had a situation like this.”
Police said in a statement they handled every case in a fair and impartial manner, irrespective of the background of the people involved, and would take appropriate action against any illegal acts.
About 30 activists turned up at the police station to support Wong and Law. They carried yellow umbrellas that have come to symbolize last year’s protests and chanted “Political persecution is shameful” and “Burning the White Paper is not a crime”.
They also called for Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, who they see as close to Beijing, to step down.
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