'Occupy'caused widespread amnesia

Updated: 2017-04-05 05:31

By Lau Nai-keung(HK Edition)

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We know the "Occupy Central" movement was bad for you; we are just not sure how bad. Lately, it is found that it also caused amnesia as participants are showing signs of memory lost.

In a move considered long overdue by critics of the protests, nine leaders and key participants of Hong Kong's "Occupy" movement were arrested and charged on March 27 over their roles in the illegal movement in 2014.

More than 200 scholars from local and overseas universities have signed a joint statement criticizing the prosecution.

"We are alarmed and outraged," the statement read. "We strongly oppose the Hong Kong government's decision to charge these scholars and activists for their non-violent fight to realize Hong Kong people's right to universal suffrage."

That was strange. The "Occupy" movement was a self-proclaimed civil disobedience campaign. In the official website of "Occupy Central with Love and Peace", the movement initiated by Chu Yiu-ming, Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Chan Kin-man gives a manifesto that clearly states "the campaign consists of four basic steps: signing covenant, deliberation day, citizen authorization and civil disobedience".

'Occupy'caused widespread amnesia

Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. It may be nonviolent, but that is irrelevant. In fact, civil disobedience is sometimes, though not always, defined as being nonviolent resistance. Nonviolence can be a mitigating factor but it does not make an illegal act legal.

In fact the "Occupy" trio surrendered to the police on Dec 3, 2014, saying they wanted to take responsibility for their actions and that time had come to end the increasingly violent street demonstrations. If they did not think they violated any laws, why would they surrender?

The arrest on Monday last week was a long overdue but natural development after the event. The joint statement's claim that "these criminal prosecutions against peaceful academics and citizens have immense chilling effects on the international and local academia, students and the youth, in addition to inflicting permanent damage to Hong Kong's reputation as a free and open society" and is therefore totally shameless.

Chan, one of the "Occupy" trio now being prosecuted, earlier said he and two other founders of the movement would not plead guilty to the charges of inciting others to create a public nuisance because it is an archaic charge "based on the backward assumption that those incited do not have a free will".

It was interesting that this nonsense was uttered by Chan, not Tai the legal expert in the trio. Legally speaking, Chan's understanding of the offense of incitement is absolutely wrong.

It is an offense at common law to incite or solicit another to commit a crime. Incitement shares a common rationale with conspiracy and allows society to intervene before a criminal act is completed. There is considerable overlap between the preliminary offenses, particularly in circumstances where two or more individuals are involved in criminal activity. A future crime may exist only in the mind of one man until he incites another to commit that crime or they agree together to commit it.

The offense of incitement also overlaps with secondary participation as the aider, abettor, counselor or procurer of a crime committed by the principal offender. However, an individual may only be convicted of secondary participation if the offense is actually committed. This is not necessary for the crime of incitement to be completed. The offense is complete whether or not the incitement persuades another to commit or attempt to commit the offense.

That is to say, if the "Occupy" trio told us to commit a crime but we didn't listen to them, they are still guilty of the offense of incitement. It has nothing to do with free will but everything to do with the society trying to discourage people from giving others bad and illegal ideas.

Since the "Occupy" trio and their supporters are now suffering from amnesia and forgot what they did back in 2014, I would encourage them to use an internet tool called Google. Just type in their names, and they can relive the past. Welcome to the new millennium.

(HK Edition 04/05/2017 page8)