Posts Tagged ‘pro-democracy’

China keeps delaying talks on letting Liu Xiaobo’s widow leave the country — Some say they killed her Nobel Peace Prize-winning husband and now refuse to release her

April 11, 2018

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FILE PHOTO: Protesters carrying photos of Chinese dissident Liu Xia demonstrate near a flag raising ceremony for China’s National Day in Hong Kong, China October 1, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is repeatedly postponing discussions with Western governments on the possibility that Liu Xia, the widow of Nobel Peace Prize-winning dissident Liu Xiaobo, be allowed to leave the country, according to a source with direct knowledge of the case.

Liu Xia, a poet and artist who suffers from depression, has effectively been under house arrest since her husband won the prize in 2010. Liu Xiaobo died in Chinese custody in July last year after being denied permission to go abroad for treatment of advanced liver cancer.

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Liu Xiaobo

Since his death, Liu Xia has continued to be closely monitored by government minders and is unable to travel or to speak freely with friends and family, other than in infrequent pre-arranged phone calls and visits, according to friends and Beijing-based Western diplomats.

Now, fears are mounting that no progress has been made toward allowing her to travel outside the country despite the conclusion of the annual meeting of parliament, which Chinese authorities previously said was the reason for delays.

“There are growing doubts that she will be released in the near future,” a Western diplomat involved in the case told Reuters.

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In a photo provided  by the Shenyang Municipal Information Office, Liu Xia, center, the widow of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, holds a portrait of him during his funeral. She stands with Liu Hui, her younger brother (left) and Liu Xiaoxuan, the younger brother of her late husband, who is holding his cremated remains. Credit AP

“The case has so far been handled discreetly in the expectation that she would soon be permitted to leave the country,” the diplomat said.

China’s foreign ministry was unable to immediately comment on the case. China’s State Council Information Office, which comments on behalf of the Communist Party, did not reply to a faxed request for comment.

WANTS TO LEAVE CHINA

Liu has told diplomats and friends on numerous occasions that she wants to leave China. Friends of the couple say that allowing her the freedom to do so was one reason for her husband’s insistence on his deathbed that he be treated overseas.

Chinese dissidents have in the past been allowed to leave the country and take up residence in a willing Western host nation.

However, since coming to power in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping has presided over a sweeping campaign to quash dissent throughout Chinese society, detaining hundreds of rights activists and lawyers; dozens have been jailed.

China has said that Liu Xia, as a private citizen, is free to do as she pleases and that the details of the case remain an internal affair of China’s.

Friends of Liu Xia say that the process has been slowed by Chinese government fears of what she might say once free, as well as her insistence that her brother, Liu Hui, also be allowed to leave.

He was handed an 11-year jail sentence for fraud in 2013 and was later released under house arrest, where he remains closely monitored, according to friends of the family.

“The Chinese authorities are primarily concerned that after she leaves she will openly tell the international community about her and Liu Xiaobo’s plight,” Ye Du, a writer and close friend of the couple, told Reuters.

“The authorities have seized upon her weakest point, which is her and Liu Hui’s total dependence on one another, so they may agree to her leaving, but only if Liu Hui stays as a hostage,” he said in reference to the pressure that the Chinese authorities can put on the China-based relatives of dissidents overseas.

Liu Xia continued to write and paint after Liu Xiaobo’s imprisonment but has told friends that she constantly struggles with loneliness and depression and has become dependent on alcohol, cigarettes and medication.

The repeat delays also reflect a failure by foreign governments and international organizations to come together and “raise the cost” of not allowing her to leave by pushing the case publicly and repeatedly, according to Sophie Richardson, Washington-based China director for Human Rights Watch.

“From Beijing’s prospective, there’s no place to go but down in releasing her,” Richardson said. “It’s not a complicated diplomatic thing. It’s about making it more painful for Beijing to keep her than release her.”

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Is Hong Kong’s democracy movement at the end of the line?

April 3, 2018

Reuters

As China tightens squeeze, soul searching for Hong Kong’s democracy movement

Scuffles in Hong Kong at key vote for democrats — “It’s a fight between good and evil.” — Pro-democracy candidates and voters intimidated, bullied

March 11, 2018

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Banners for pro-democracy by-election candidate Au Nok-hin in Hong Kong, on March 9, 2018. PHOTO by AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s best-known young activists were heckled by Chinese nationalists in tense scenes on Sunday (March 11) as the city’s pro-democracy camp tries to claw back lost seats in controversial by-elections.

Sunday’s vote once more exposed the city’s deep political divide and comes as China takes an increasingly tough line against any challenges to its sovereignty.

High-profile candidate Agnes Chow was barred from standing because her party promotes self-determination for the semi-autonomous city.

Soon after polls opened, several men and a woman heckled Chow as well as leading pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law near a polling station where they were supporting pro-democracy candidate Au Nok Hin, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

One of the men barged into Wong, who led mass demonstrations in 2014 calling for greater democratic freedoms.

“Traitors and running dogs!” a man repeatedly yelled while others hurled repeated obscenities.

Wong told reporters that threats to freedoms in the city “prove that it’s more necessary for us to vote”.

Beijing has become incensed at the emergence of activists advocating independence and views calls for self-determination as part of a dangerous splittist push.

The by-election was triggered after Beijing forced the disqualification of six rebel lawmakers who had swept to victory in citywide elections in 2016.

Some were former protest leaders, others openly advocated independence. All were ousted from their posts for inserting protests into their oaths of office.

Four of the six vacant seats are being contested on Sunday.

By-election candidate Judy Chan of New People’s Party giving a speech while Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong candidate Vincent Cheng listens. PHOTO: AFP 

“The election is not just about selecting me as a candidate, it is also about voting for justice,” said Au, who stepped in to contest the Hong Kong Island seat after Chow was disallowed.

Democracy campaigners were deeply angered by the ban on Chow which they said was political screening.

The seat was originally held by Law, also a 2014 protest leader, who was among the six thrown out of office. But pro-establishment politician Judy Chan, standing against Au, cast the opposition as provoking “violence and resistance”.

“The by-election is a chance for the silent majority, who are tired of a politicised Hong Kong, who detest those who humiliate the country, to come out and tell those politicians that Hong Kong has no room for them,” Chan told AFP.

Democracy camp struggling Many of the first people to cast ballots at a polling station AFP visited early Sunday were elderly and supportive of the city’s pro-Beijing establishment.

“I’m not resistant to democracy and freedom, but I can’t accept the independence of Hong Kong,” voter Chan Chik Sing, 60, told AFP.

But others said people were angry about inequality.

“If the government’s policies were really that good and supported by citizens, the public’s satisfaction level for the government wouldn’t keep deteriorating,” said voter Lilian Leung, who was in her late 30s.

The six lawmakers were retrospectively barred from office by Hong Kong’s high court after Beijing issued a special “interpretation” of the city’s mini-constitution stipulating legislators had to take their oath “solemnly and sincerely” or face being banned.

Pro-independence lawmakers had inserted expletives and waved “Hong Kong is not China” banners during their swearing in.

Others added phrases supporting the democracy movement. The pro-democracy camp has come under increasing pressure since the failure of the Umbrella Movement to win political reform, with some leading activists jailed on protest-related charges.

Political analyst Dixon Sing says losing any one of the four by-election seats would be a further blow.

But he added that even an across-the-board win would be countered by a system fundamentally weighted towards Beijing. Only half the legislature is elected, with the rest selected by traditionally pro-establishment interest groups.

Of 70 seats, the democracy camp currently holds 24, only just clinging on to the one-third needed to veto important bills. It has also been curbed by new rules against filibustering, long a favoured tactic.

Nevertheless, veteran democrats are urging residents to go out and vote.

“It is not just a by-election,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo.

“It’s a fight between good and evil.”

Related:

Hong Kong goes to polls in crunch test for democrats — “The election is not just about selecting me as a candidate, it is also about voting for justice.”

March 11, 2018

AFP

© AFP / by Elaine YU | Pro-democracy candidate Au Nok-hin is campaigning for a seat after his predecessor was disqualified by Beijing
HONG KONG (AFP) – Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp are trying to claw back lost seats in controversial by-elections held Sunday that have exposed the heart of the city’s political divide.The vote comes as China takes a tough line against any challenges to its sovereignty, with high-profile young candidate Agnes Chow barred from standing because her party promotes self-determination for the semi-autonomous city.

The atmosphere was tense early Sunday when a small group of people heckled Chow as well as leading pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law near a polling station, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

One of the men barged into Wong, who was one of the student leaders during mass demonstrations in 2014 calling for a greater democratic freedoms.

“When there is a restriction on freedom of speech and we face more suppression on civil disobedience and protest in the streets, it proves that it’s more necessary for us to vote,” Wong told reporters.

Beijing has become increasingly incensed at the emergence of activists advocating independence and sees calls for self-determination as part of a dangerous splittist push.

The by-election was triggered after Beijing forced the disqualification of six rebel lawmakers who had swept to victory in citywide elections in 2016.

Some were former protest leaders, others openly advocated independence. All were ousted from their posts for inserting protests into their oaths of office.

Four of the six vacant seats are being contested Sunday.

“The election is not just about selecting me as a candidate, it is also about voting for justice,” said Au Nok-hin, who stepped in to contest the Hong Kong Island seat after Agnes Chow was disallowed.

The seat was originally held by Law, also a 2014 protest leader, who was among the six thrown out of office.

But pro-establishment politician Judy Chan, standing against Au, cast the opposition as provoking “violence and resistance”.

“The by-election is a chance for the silent majority, who are tired of a politicised Hong Kong, who detest those who humiliate the country, to come out and tell those politicians that Hong Kong has no room for them,” Chan told AFP.

– Democracy camp struggling –

Many of the first people to cast ballots at a polling station AFP visited early Sunday were more elderly and supportive of the city’s pro-Beijing establishment.

“I’m not resistant to democracy and freedom, but I can’t accept the independence of Hong Kong,” voter Chan Chik-sing, 60, told AFP.

Others said China needed to recognise people were angry about inequality.

“If the government’s policies were really that good and supported by citizens, the public’s satisfaction level for the government wouldn’t keep deteriorating,” said voter Lilian Leung, who was in her late 30s.

The six lawmakers were retrospectively barred from office by Hong Kong’s high court after Beijing issued a special “interpretation” of the city’s mini-constitution stipulating legislators had to take their oath “solemnly and sincerely” or face being banned.

Pro-independence lawmakers had inserted expletives and waved “Hong Kong is not China” banners during their swearing in. Others added phrases supporting the democracy movement.

The pro-democracy camp has come up against increasing pressure since the failure of the Umbrella Movement to win political reform, with some leading activists jailed on protest-related charges.

Political analyst Dixon Sing says losing any one of the four by-election seats would be a further blow.

“It would only add to the disappointment and the loss of faith,” he told AFP.

But Sing added that even an across-the-board win would be countered by a system fundamentally weighted towards Beijing.

Only half the legislature is elected, with the rest selected by traditionally pro-establishment interest groups.

Of 70 seats, the democracy camp currently holds 24, only just clinging on to the one-third needed to veto important bills.

It has also been curbed by new rules against filibustering, long a favoured tactic.

Nevertheless, veteran democrats are urging residents to go out and vote.

“It is not just a by-election,” said pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo.

“It’s a fight between good and evil.”

by Elaine YU

Politics back in fashion in Thailand despite poll delays

March 6, 2018

Reuters

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A Thai Pro-democracy protester wearing a mask mocking Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan performs in a protest in Bangkok, Thailand, February 6, 2018. Picture taken February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Baan Saladin, Thailand (Reuters) – Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha rowed a boat across a pond dotted with lotus leaves, planted some rice stalks in a field and turned to villagers who had come to meet him in Baan Saladin village in central Thailand.

Speaking of an oft-delayed general election, the 63-year-old Prayuth, who led a 2014 coup that ousted the last elected government, simply said: “Elect a good person.”

Prayuth was in Nakhon Pathom province last month not to campaign for an election, but to roll out his “Long-lasting Thainess” plan, which involves sending soldiers and social workers to meet with people across Thailand to listen to their problems.

But the “Thainess” undertaking is widely seen as the unofficial launch of Prayuth’s own campaign to stay on as prime minister. Prayuth had promised to hold an election in November, but said last week the vote would take place “no later” than February 2019.

“Those in the government and the junta … think that the situation in the country is still unsettled,” said a government minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, about the series of election delays.

ANTI-JUNTA PROTESTS

In Bangkok, young, middle-class Thais, have led a series of anti-junta protests, including one on Feb. 24 at Thammasat University – which Thai troops stormed in 1976, killing dozens of students in an earlier coup.

Than Rittiphan, a member of the New Democracy Movement, which has helped to organize the protests, said the movement is mainly aimed at holding a general election sooner.

The movement transcends the red-yellow divide in Thai politics and “has actually spread into a conflict between generations and values”, he said. The students say they are pushing for a Thai meritocracy to replace what they see as corruption and nepotism in the system.

The latest protests are too small to be a factor in any election timing, said Kan Yuenyong, a political analyst and executive director of the Siam Intelligence Unit think-tank told Reuters. “But they do increase public awareness about the vote.

“The underlying politics of Thailand is still about class – the upper, middle and the working class. People try to say that we’ve moved on from color politics but we haven’t,” Kan said.

New King Maha Vajiralongkorn is contributing to some of the political uncertainty. The king, who’s been married three times and lives much of his time in Germany, has moved quickly to consolidate power since taking the throne in December 2016, following the death of his father, the much beloved Bhumibol Adulyadej.

He made changes to the Privy Council, which advises the monarchy, and has made appointments himself, taking some of the control away from the military. He made his own amendments to the military-drafted constitution and gained control of the Crown Property Bureau, which runs the more than $30 billion assets of the monarchy.

The king has yet to set a date for his official coronation and some analysts think an election would not be held before then.

Pro-democracy protesters hold up warrants during a protest against junta in Bangkok, Thailand, February 2, 2018. Picture taken February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

RED-YELLOW DIVIDE

The junta’s four-year moratorium on politics was aimed at stamping out the intransigent red-yellow divide in Thai politics.

The “yellow shirts” tended to support the Democrat Party, popular with middle-class voters with strong support in Bangkok and the Muslim-dominated south.

The “red shirt” movement of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, Yingluck appealed to poorer voters, particularly in the populous northeast. It has won every election in Thailand over the past two decades.

Yingluck herself was overthrown by Prayuth in the 2014 coup and last year fled Thailand before the verdict in a corruption trial – eliminating a charismatic party figurehead who might also have rallied opposition to Prayuth.

Although he cannot stand for election, the constitution offers a way for Prayuth to continue serving as prime minister.

According to the constitution, both houses of parliament can consider an alternative candidate as prime minister if the 500-member lower house fails to approve a nominee for the post.

The candidate would need majority support from both houses – all 250 senators in the upper house are appointed by the junta.

Prayuth told reporters on Tuesday he had not been approached by any political party to be its candidate for the prime minister role.

“It is not time yet. Nobody has contacted me so don’t use this issue to attack me. Give me time to work,” Prayuth said in reply to a question about whether he had been approached.

Outside the legislature, Prayuth appears to have some support already.

Representatives of 114 political groups met this month with the election panel, with many pledging support for Prayuth as prime minister.

The two main parties, however, the Democrat Party and the Thaksin-allied Puea Thai Party, have openly criticized Prayuth’s election postponements and will field their own candidates for the prime minister job.

“The military wants to ensure that it can convince political parties to support it and that’s why it needs more time,” said a senior government aide, referring to the repeated postponements of the election.

Thaksin and his sister Yingluck held meetings in Hong Kong and Singapore last month with members of his party, prompting some to comment that he was readying Puea Thai for an election.

Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Bill Tarrant

Vietnam activist vows to continue pressing for democracy despite house arrest

March 1, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | Vietnam’s communist leadership has been accused of tightening its grip on activists, arresting and convicting dozens

HANOI (AFP) – A high-profile Vietnamese writer says she has gone into hiding after being interrogated about her banned book and placed under de-facto house arrest by plainclothes police, vowing Thursday to continue pressing for democracy in the one-party state.Activist Pham Doan Trang said she was held for questioning by security officials for several hours on Saturday over her most recent book “Politics for the Masses” (or “Politics for All”), which is outlawed in Vietnam and includes sections on democracy and political ideology.

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Plainclothes police surrounded her home in Hanoi after her release late Saturday, she told AFP.

“I escaped… which is a miracle,” she said from an undisclosed hideout in Vietnam, adding that she was targeted because of her 2017 book, which she called a political science textbook.

“Vietnam’s Communist Party simply dislikes anyone who purports to be more legitimate than them, more worthy than them to hold power,” she said.

The former journalist has previously been detained in Vietnam, which routinely locks up bloggers, lawyers and dissidents who are critical of the state.

A conservative leadership in charge since 2016 has been accused of tightening its grip on activists, arresting and convicting dozens.

Trang, 39, has long been a thorn in the side of the authorities with her pro-democracy writing and her work on an environmental disaster in central Vietnam (Formosa steel) in 2016 that prompted rare protests across the country.

Prague-based rights group People in Need said last month it would award Trang for her activism.

The former journalist for prominent news website VietnamNet was held for more than a week in 2009 after she was accused of planning to print controversial T-shirts, which she denies.

Despite repeated threats of arrest, she vowed to continue speaking out.

“I feel strongly about writing more, I cannot stay silent,” she said, adding she would remain in her country.

Human Rights Watch says at least 24 activists were convicted in Vietnam last year and another 28 arrested in one of the harshest years for dissidents.

When asked about Trang’s case on Thursday, foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said anyone breaking the law would be “punished in accordance with Vietnamese laws”.

“Vietnamese functional authorities did their duty correctly,” she told reporters.

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Image result for Pham Doan Trang, photos, politics, vietnam

Pham Doan Trang, author of ‘Politics For All,’ tells RFA’s Vietnamese Service in an Oct. 3, 2017 interview that she aims to prove politics are not only for the elite and are relevant to everyday life in Vietnam.

RFA: Why did you name your book ‘Politics For All?’

Pham Doan Trang: I chose the words “for all” because I want many people to read this book. That is also why I used words that are easy to understand, made it less academic, and included fewer formulas and tables. I don’t use words that are too complex or ancient language. I only used modern terms associated with current events in Vietnam … Almost 99 percent of the examples are about Vietnam.

Secondly, I wanted to erase the idea that politics are for a minority of people and the elite. Vietnamese people regularly say that everything will be taken care of by the [ruling Communist] Party and the state. I want people to understand that politics are everywhere in our lives—even connected to the food we eat and the clothes we wear.

RFA: How will you ensure that Vietnamese readers have access to the book, as the government will not allow it to be published in Vietnam?

Pham Doan Trang: I want to use everything possible, including online publication and e-books. I might even split the book into small sections to be published in newspapers, or allow it to be pirated. It is true that this year the government is exercising tight control over the large printing houses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. I will try to disseminate it through all possible means—no method is preferred to any others.

RFA: Why did you decide to write a book about a topic considered sensitive in Vietnam?

Pham Doan Trang: The desire arose after I became involved in political activities in 2009. It was then that I realized I did not truly understand politics. I knew I was fighting for democracy, but I didn’t know what democracy was. I realized that if I wanted to write about social and political issues, I had to first understand them. If you don’t understand something, how can you guide others? I began to learn and realized that most people were like me.

In Vietnam, since [the end of the Vietnam War in] 1975, there have been few accessible political documents. [These days] there are only sporadic articles [about politics] on the internet, but they aren’t written systematically, and they cover issues that nobody ever talks about, such as social movements, propaganda, and why elections in Vietnam are considered undemocratic. I’m lucky to have many friends living overseas and I also studied abroad. At that time I spent most of my money buying books about politics and I read all of them. Then I leaned on the knowledge I gained from those books and simplified it on my own.

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/vietnam/politics-10032017162222.html

Thai activists in Pinocchio masks call junta leader ‘liar’

February 24, 2018

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Thai pro-democracy activists wearing masks mock Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha as Pinocchio during a protest against junta at a university in Bangkok, Thailand, February 24, 2018. REUTERS/Panarat ThepgumpanatREUTERS

BANGKOK (REUTERS) – Hundreds of pro-democracy activists in Thailand wore cartoon masks portraying the country’s junta leader with a long nose on Saturday, calling him a “liar” for delaying a general election promised this year.

The junta has promised and postponed elections several times since it came to power following a coup in 2014, with the latest date set for November. The military-appointed legislature changed the election law last month, signaling another delay to early 2019.

That sparked a series of anti-junta, pro-election protests that have gained momentum in recent weeks with gatherings taking place in several provinces across Thailand.

On Saturday, around 300 activists congregated at Bangkok’s Thammasat University, wearing and distributing paper masks resembling Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to Pinocchio.

One of them, Sirawith Seritiwat, said the mask was called Yuth-nocchio – a reference to the infamous fictional character whose nose gets longer every time he lies.

“Enough with the lies. Time’s up for dictatorship. It’s the people’s time now. We must vote this year,” Sirawith told the crowd.

Activists also held up three fingers, which they said symbolized their demands in the slogan: “Elections must take place this year. Down with dictatorship. Long live democracy.”

Around 100 police officers were deployed at the university but they did not interfere with the event.

Officials have so far not commented on the latest spate of protests, but last week a spokesman for the junta said it was not concerned by the protests and would rely on the police to maintain peace and order.

Prayuth said earlier this week young activists should focus on their studies and “not think they have to change the country.”

Protests are planned for every Saturday in March and May in Bangkok and other provinces, with a large gathering between May 19-22 to mark the four-year anniversary of the coup.

“We urge everyone in the country to come out and join us,” said Rangsiman Rome, another activist in Bangkok.

“It’s time to take back our future. Prayuth and Prawit must go,” he added, referring to another junta leader Prawit Wongsuwan.

Watana Muangsook, a member of the Puea Thai party which has won every election in the last decade, also came to Saturday’s gathering “to show support” to the activists.

“People have the right to demand elections,” Wattana said.

The junta lodged a lawsuit last week against seven activists for inciting unrest and 43 protesters for illegal gathering after a protest last month at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok that also involved hundreds of activists.

Thai activists plan more protests ahead of coup anniversary in May

February 17, 2018

Reuters

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A group of pro-democracy activists in Thailand said on Saturday that it plans to hold more public protests, despite threat of arrests, to demand the military government not to delay a general election scheduled for November this year.

The junta has promised and postponed elections several times since it came to power following a coup in 2014, with the latest date being set for November.

But a change to the election law by the military-appointed legislature last month means that the election will likely be pushed back to early 2019. That sparked a series of small anti-junta, pro-election protests that is gaining momentum in recent weeks with gathering taking place in Bangkok, Chiang Mai in the north, and Khon Kaen in northeastern Thailand.

Activists from the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) says they now want to hold a series of pro-election demonstrations starting this Sunday in northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, followed by a protest in Bangkok next Saturday.

Thai anti-government protesters scuffle with a police during a protest in Bangkok on Saturday, February 10, 2018. (AFP)

The activists also announced plans to hold further protests on March 10 and 24 as well as on every Saturday in May, leading to a large gathering that will take place over several days, from May 19-22, marking the four-year anniversary of the 2014 coup.

“We will make May the month for all Thais to think about election and think about how our country should move forward,” Rangsiman Rome, a pro-democracy activist, told reporters at a news conference on Saturday.

Junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree told Reuters that the government is not concerned by the planned protests and will rely on the police to maintain peace and order.

“If the protest disturbs others than it will be up to the police to respond according to the law,” Winthai said.

Earlier this week, the junta lodged a lawsuit against seven DRG activists for inciting unrest and 43 protesters for illegal gathering after last Saturday pro-election protest by hundreds of people at Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong jailed over protest

January 17, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File / by Elaine YU | Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, 21, became the face of the 2014 Umbrella Movement calling for greater democracy in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (AFP) – 

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was jailed for the second time Wednesday for his role in mass pro-democracy protests as concern grows that prison terms for young campaigners are shutting down debate in the semi-autonomous city as Beijing increases control.

Wong, 21, who became the face of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, was handed a three-month sentence on a contempt charge for obstructing clearance of a major protest encampment, to which he had pleaded guilty.

He was already on bail pending an appeal over a six-month sentence for another protest-related offence.

Judge Andrew Chan described Wong’s involvement in obstructing the clearance in 2014 as “deep and extensive” in his written judgement.

“He played a leading role on that day,” he added. “The only appropriate punishment for Mr Wong is immediate imprisonment.”

Fellow activist Raphael Wong was jailed for four months and 15 days over the same incident.

Chan denied both bail but defence lawyers pushed for him to reconsider his decision and were granted a further hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile both activists were taken into custody by security guards.

“Our determination to fight for democracy will not change!” Raphael Wong shouted as he was led away.

Fourteen other defendants including leading activist Lester Shum were given suspended sentences on contempt charges.

Campaigners fear that the raft of cases against activists and the jail terms handed down to democracy leaders are discouraging young people from expressing their views and exercising their right to peaceful protest.

Freedom of speech and demonstration is protected by the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

– ‘No regrets’ –

Ahead of the hearing, Joshua Wong — who became the teenage face of the Umbrella Movement — said he had “no regrets” about his involvement.

“They can lock up our bodies but they can’t lock up our minds,” he told reporters.

Dozens of supporters gathered outside the High Court, chanting: “Civil disobedience, no fear!” and “I’m a Hong Konger, I want universal suffrage!”

They were countered by a small group of pro-Beijing protesters waving the national flag of China and supporting Hong Kong’s department of justice. They displayed a banner calling the activists “mobsters” and saying they must “pay the price” in jail.

The Umbrella Movement was an unprecedented rebuke to Beijing as tens of thousands of protesters brought parts of the city to a standstill demanding fully free leadership elections to replace a system where the chief executive is selected by a pro-Beijing committee.

They failed to win concessions and since then leading activists have been charged over their involvement.

Beijing has been further incensed by the emergence of some activists calling for independence for Hong Kong since the failure of the Umbrella Movement to win reform.

Wong’s party Demosisto wants self-determination for the city.

Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” deal since 1997, when Britain handed the territory back to China.

The agreement allows citizens rights unseen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and a partially directly elected parliament, as well as an independent judiciary, but there are concerns those liberties are being eroded.

Wong was jailed for six months in August on unlawful assembly charges for involvement in the storming of a fenced-off government forecourt known as Civic Square in September 2014, which sparked the wider Umbrella Movement rallies.

Wong and fellow campaigners Nathan Law and Alex Chow were originally given non-custodial sentences by a lower court over that incident, but after the government’s intervention they were jailed by the Court of Appeal.

The government’s move was seen as further evidence of Beijing’s growing influence over Hong Kong.

Their appeal against their sentences is currently being considered by Hong Kong’s top court.

by Elaine YU
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Joshua Wong and fellow Occupy Hong Kong student leaders made to wait as top court reserves judgment on jail terms appeal

January 16, 2018

Lawyers for Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang claimed their sentences were too harsh

By Chris Lau and Jasmine Siu

Couth China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 8:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 6:00pm

Three Hong Kong student pro-democracy leaders – including Joshua Wong Chi-fung – were on Tuesday awaiting their fates after their lawyers made a last-ditch effort against jail terms imposed on them last year over their actions in the run-up to the 2014 Occupy protests.

The lawyers earlier that day told the city’s top court that lower appeal judges had erred in interpreting matters of fact rather than points of law, and in weighing the trio’s political motives.

The Court of Final Appeal reserved judgment after hearing the ultimate appeal lodged by Wong, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang against their sentences, which were handed down to replace earlier non-custodial sentences after a government appeal.

Their bail was extended to the date of judgment.

The appeal, which touched upon whether motives such as civil disobedience should be taken into account in sentencing, is expected to set a legal precedent in a city increasingly split by divided political views.

If the five top justices – Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Toa-li, and justices Roberto Ribeiro, Joseph Fok, Tang Kwok-ching and Leonard Hoffmann – rule against them, the trio would have to return to prison immediately to serve the rest of their sentences.

Writing on his Facebook page ahead of Tuesday’s decision, Chow said: “Whether justice will be done will be revealed [on Tuesday] … with the whole city and world watching.”

The three were convicted in 2016 over their role in the storming of a forecourt of the government complex on September 26, 2014, two days before the civil disobedience movement began. While Wong, 21, and Chow, 27, were found guilty of taking part in an illegal assembly, Law, 24, was convicted of inciting others.

All were originally given either a community service order or suspended sentence by a lower court. But prosecutors, deeming the sentence too light, took them back to court in a controversial move to ask the Court of Appeal to jail them.

Wong, Law and Chow were subsequently jailed for six, eight and seven months respectively, with the court issuing new sentencing guidelines for unlawful assembly.

Five months on, their lawyers argued on Tuesday that the Court of Appeal had overstepped boundaries of what it is entitled to do and, in Wong’s case, neglected that he was a minor at the time of the crime when considering his punishment.

His counsel Philip Dykes SC said the Court of Appeal may not alter the trial magistrate’s finding of facts when prosecutors had had the chance to correct them earlier.

Law’s counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung SC, on the other hand, said the new sentencing practice may have “a chilling effect” on political participation among younger Hongkongers, citing the University of Hong Kong’s recent student union elections, which did not receive any nominations, as possible evidence of such a chill.

“Reports in the press suggest students simply don’t want to get involved,” he added.

But Lord Justice Hoffman noted: “The Court of Appeal is entitled to say, ‘You’ve got to be more careful’, and to make sure of that point by saying, ‘In the future you’ll get a higher sentence.’”

Ma, the chief justice, added: “We’re talking about violent unrest here, not the right to demonstrate.”

Still Ma also observed there was “quite a big jump” from a community service order to a six-month jail term.

Director of Public Prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin SC replied that it was not unprecedented for unlawful assembly convictions to result in imprisonment.

But being fully appreciative of the jump, Leung later added: “Your Lordship may substitute a sentence which would enable the applicants immediate release.”

Given the trio had already been remanded 69 to 83 days in prison and assuming that all of them are entitled to remission, Leung noted that they have all served close to or more than 50 per cent of their respective jail terms.

On the issue of civil disobedience, Edwin Choy argued for Chow that it can be a powerful mitigating factor when the acts involved were not very violent and were motivated by just causes that promote a pluralistic and tolerant society.

“Civil disobedience is always relevant unless you overstepped the mark,” the chief justice replied. “The query in each case is what ‘overstepping the mark’ means.”

Outside court, a hopeful Law said: “We expect a positive result. Hopefully the court will adopt our lawyers’ arguments.”

But Wong added: “It’s hard for me to be overly optimistic since I have to face another case tomorrow at High Court.”

 A pro-democracy protester steps on defaced portraits of local politicians at the government headquarters in Hong Kong. Photo: Reuters

Wong is expected to be sentenced on Wednesday over a separate case, in which he admitted to contempt of court for obstructing a court-ordered clearance of a major Occupy protest site.

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2128374/jailed-hong-kong-student-leaders-appeal-jail-terms