Hong Kong Brings Fresh Charges Against Occupy Central Founder Benny Tai

Tai is already behind bars awaiting trial for 'subversion' for his role in a democratic primary in July 2020.
By Luo Yanyun and Man Hoi Yan
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Hong Kong Brings Fresh Charges Against Occupy Central Founder Benny Tai Hong Kong Occupy Central founder and legal scholar Benny Tai is shown in a file photo.

Hong Kong's anti-graft body has brought fresh charges against jailed activist and former law professor Benny Tai for proposing an election strategy aimed at winning more seats in the city's legislature for pro-democracy candidates in 2016.

Tai's ThunderGo plan relied on pre-election poll results to co-ordinate pro-democracy voters in a tactical voting scheme in Sept. 4, 2016 elections to the Legislative Council (LegCo).

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said Tai, 57, had been charged with "engaging in illegal conduct" after he placed six newspaper advertisements publicizing the scheme.

Two other defendants, Ip Kim-ching, 55, and Sek Sau-ching, 50, were also charged in connection with the same activities.

Eggs Alliance, a company owned by Ip and Sek, placed the ads in the Ming Pao and Apple Daily newspapers in August and September 2016, the ICAC said.

It said Tai had also promoted the scheme via a radio program, press conferences, and social media.

The three defendants will appear in Eastern Court on Friday charged with four counts of "engaging in illegal conduct at an election by incurring election expense."

Hong Kong's election laws prohibit anyone but candidates or their campaigns from incurring expenses in connection with elections.

Dozens pursued by authorities

Since the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong from July 1, 2020, the authorities have pursued dozens of pro-democracy politicians, activists, and rights lawyers both under the law -- which criminalizes dissent -- and under pre-existing legislation.

Tai has been in prison on remand since February alongside dozens of pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers charged with "subversion" for holding a democratic primary election in July 2020.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China said on Monday it had received summonses from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the court for local license violations linked to a museum commemorating the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

The organization, some of whose key members are behind bars for peaceful protest activities, is due to appear at Kowloon City Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, and said it would plead guilty to the charges.

National security education

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) announced that all students would be required to take a course on "national security" before graduating, reflecting the government's drive to promote "national security education" across the city's primary, secondary, and tertiary education institutions.

"We will offer a series of talks and seminars to them. They can choose the topics they are interested in. We plan to cover a wide range of topics, for example, internet security and national security, environment and national security, health or even the financial system," vice-president Albert Chau said.

HKBU also said it would stop collecting fees on behalf of its students' union, following moves by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong to derecognize their unions over their support for the 2019 protest movement.

Acting students’ union president Keith Fong accused the university management of undermining the union, saying it may not have enough funding to keep running its current, cooperative operations on campus.

The national security education campaign has prompted families with young children to resettle in the United Kingdom under the British National Overseas (BNO) passport visa scheme, in a bid to avoid having them subjected to CCP propaganda in school.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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