The city has been under growing pressure since the ‘umbrella movement’ convulsed it four years ago
Nine pro-democracy campaigners are on trial in Hong Kong over their role in the “umbrella movement”, four years after the unprecedented protests gripped the city. They are pleading not guilty and hope to use the hearings to turn a spotlight on the issues behind their case: what is also on trial, says the defendant Benny Tai, a legal scholar, is the high degree of autonomy and the rule of law that Hong Kong is supposed to enjoy.
Unusually, prosecutors have based the charges on a common law offence which renders them more ambiguous than similar charges under statutory law and ensures that they carry far harsher sentences, of up to seven years. The defendants are accused of inciting public nuisance; Mr Tai and the two fellow founders of the Occupy Central campaign are also accused of conspiracy to cause public nuisance and, absurdly, inciting others to incite public nuisance. Amnesty International describes the charges as deliberately vague and designed to chill.