Taiwan expresses regret over sentencing of H.K. democracy activists

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TAIPEI (CNA) – Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) expressed regret yesterday after a court in Hong Kong handed down prison sentences of up to 16 months earlier that day on nine leaders of pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014.

In a statement, the MAC, Taiwan’s top China policy-making body, said that the court ruling proved China’s “one country, two systems” mechanism does not respect and guarantee people’s political rights.

It also called on the parties concerned to adhere to their commitment to the “one country, two systems” policy of governing Hong Kong and the promise to grant Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy as enshrined in the Basic Law.

That is the only way to observe the rule of law and maintain Hong Kong’s prosperous development, the MAC said.

A Hong Kong court handed down sentences around noon on nine leaders of the city’s “Occupy Central” protests that paralyzed parts of the former British colony for 79 days in late 2014 after they were convicted last month of public nuisance offenses.

Among the defendants, law professor Benny Tai (戴耀廷), 54, retired sociologist Chan Kin-man (陳健民), 60, and retired pastor Chu Yiu-ming (朱耀明), 75, were given 16 months, with Chu’s jail term suspended for two years.

Two others received eight month sentences and two were given suspended eight month sentences, while another was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

The other defendant, Tanya Chan (陳淑莊), had her sentencing postponed to June 10 because she needs to undergo surgery.

Also Wednesday, representatives from over 20 Taiwanese non-governmental organizations expressed their support for the nine defendants during a press conference in front of Taiwan’s representative office in Hong Kong, stressing that caring about Hong Kong means caring for Taiwan.

Chiu E-ling (邱伊翎), secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, said that the Hong Kong government has incorporated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights into Hong Hong’s laws, while freedom of speech and assembly are protected by Article 27 of the Basic Law.

She said that by sentencing the nine activists to prison for peaceful assembly, the Hong Kong court is apparently in violation of the Basic Law and the international covenant, adding that the sentences demonstrate the undermining of judicial independence in Hong Kong.

Chiang Min-yen (江旻諺), a research fellow with the Economic Democracy Union, said the court decision shows that Hong Kong’s judiciary has succumbed to pressure from the Chinese government and that the “one country, two systems” formula can not be trusted.

By Miao Zong-han and Evelyn Kao