Asia Minute: Convictions for Hong Kong Democracy Activists

Apr 10, 2019

Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution | 2014
Credit Studio Incendo / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

This fall will mark five years since massive protests choked the streets of Hong Kong. This week, several leaders of that movement have been convicted of criminal charges.

Nine pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been convicted of charges related to colonial era laws about inciting or conspiring to create a “public nuisance.” The Hong Kong director of Amnesty International calls the verdicts “a crushing blow for freedom of expression and peaceful protest in Hong Kong.”

It was September of 2014 when organizers put together a demonstration that grew to more than a million people occupying the main streets of the city, which is a “Special Administrative Region” of mainland China.

The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress in Beijing changed some of the rules of the Hong Kong electoral system — effectively giving China’s communist party the ability to pre-screen candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive.

That sparked the initial demonstrations – which remained peaceful. When police used tear gas, people used umbrellas to shield themselves – leading to the name of “the umbrella protests.”

Critics say freedoms in Hong Kong have eroded, and have come under progressive attack in recent years.

Late last year, the American Chamber of Commerce warned that the government needed to “make it clear to the international business community that free speech and the free flow of information in this world city are still sound enough for business to consider Hong Kong as an important hub.”