#HK CRACKDOWN WATCH UPDATE: Of the 49 arrested in Sheung Wan on #July28, on July 31, 44 were charged w 'riot' & 1 w illegal possession of an offensive weapon. Of the 4 others, 2 were released on bail & 2 released unconditionally.
Before these 45, only 1 of the 199 arrested in relation to #HK protests had reportedly been charged. The 44 'riot' charges is a very significant development. It is clearly part of the #CCP & #HK govt & police strategy for ending the 8-weeks-long protests:
First, ban as many protests as possible (2 so far). Second, #CCP, #HK govt & police speak out in unison about 'violence', 'rule of law' & 'the bottom line'. Third, arrest people in large numbers & immediately charge them with serious offenses w potential long prison sentences.
Up to now, #HK govt & police have shown faltering resolve. Now they want to show they're 'putting their foot down'. On #June12, 5 were arrested for 'riot' & govt & police called a protest of 100,000, almost entirely peaceful, a 'riot' & police used excessive force to put it down
Partly in protest against that, 2 million came out to the streets on #July16. Ever since then 2 of protesters' 5 demands has been to not prosecute protesters & stop calling protests 'riots'.
In the face of 2 million protesters, govt & police partly backed down, saying what they really meant was only a few of the 100,000 may have 'rioted'.
Then on #July1, protesters broke into Legco. After allowing them to do it, police threatened 100s of arrests. that's when I started keeping an #HK CRACKDOWN WATCH- it looked like such a crackdown was imminent. But no arrests for Legco break-in followed.
The reason the crackdown didn't occur was that it became clear that the millions who'd demonstrated actually supported those who broke into Legco. The govt & police were unable to shift the narrative to 'violence' & 'chaos' & since have been paralyzed.
Now they're trying the same again in relation to Sheung Wan, the only differences being the #CCP has joined the chorus & the tough talk's been backed up by 49 arrests & 45 protesters charged in court.
Of course, the amazing thing is, in the time being, the #HK govt's done virtually nothing to politically address this political crisis. Instead, #CCP & govt continue to pretend this is a 'law & order' issue & avoid addressing substantively any protester demands.
In fact, the 'riot' charges are in flagrant defiance of 2 of the protesters' demands, showing that rather than really changing their failed governance at all, they're simply continuing what they've been doing the past 5 years. The only thing they know is crackdown.
Just how politically motivated are these charges? This extraordinary letter from public prosecutors to their boss, the Secretary of Justice, accuses her of making prosecution decisions based on political factors.Never before have pp's criticized their boss news.rthk.hk/rthk/en/compon…
Instead of attempting to actually come to terms w the millions of #HK people who've protested for 8 weeks, #CCP, govt & police double down, further isolating themselves from HK people & from reality. It's the dictator's prerogative: If you don't like reality, declare a new one.
Above all else, they simply refuse to face this crisis of governance which is their own doing. They refuse to take responsibility or hold themselves accountable in any way (independent Commission of Inquiry, resignations or firings of top leaders, etc).
One additional note about the crime of 'riot': In #HK law, it's under the Public Order Ordinance, or POO, which has been criticized by international human rights experts such as the UN Human Rights Committee & HRW for being so vaguely worded as to...
leave itself open to abuse by law enforcement authorities, allowing them to unreasonably restrict the right to freedom of assembly. We see this now with the banning of protests. 'Riot' as a crime is problematic because it essentially is charging someone for...
1) being present in a place & 2) committing some violent act. In the case of 1, it essentially holds a defendant legally liable for the actions of others (other 'rioters' in this case). We say, if someone has committed a discrete violent act, charge them with, say, assault....
If someone participates in an 'unlawful assembly' (another problematic phrase, but another time w that), then charge them with that.But to say 'unlawful assembly + violent act = riot' & then to impose up to 10 years in prison for that is an abuse of the law & the judicial process
These complaints about the 'riot' charge & POO have been around for years & increased after the 2016 Mong Kok police-protester clashes, & yet rather than addressing them, the #HK govt & police are employing these very tools to criminalize protest.
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