RACHEL WONG | Hong Kong Free Press
Chan Kin-man, one of the co-founders of the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, has been released from prison after serving 11 months of his 16-month sentence. The sociology professor was one of nine activists convicted on public nuisance charges last April for participation in the 2014 protests.
Outside Clearwater Bay’s Pik Uk Prison on Saturday, he told the press that it was necessary to lodge an appeal against both his conviction and sentence, despite completing his term: “[We] do not wish the judgment to negatively impact future rulings under common law jurisdiction.”
Aside from public nuisance, Chan was also convicted of inciting others to cause a public nuisance – a charge criticised as convoluted and archaic by NGOs such as Amnesty International.
Over the course of 79 days in late 2014, protesters blocked main roads around the city and government headquarters demanding universal suffrage.
Eight activists, together with roughly 100 journalists and members of the public, were present on Saturday, despite Chan reportedly asking people to stay away due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Life was tough inside, but I have not regretted a single moment because this is the price we have to pay for fighting for democracy,” Chan said.
In his weekly column Apple Daily column, “Letters from Prison,” he praised protesters taking part in the current pro-democracy protests, saying that reignited his hope in the city’s future: “The breadth of [the movement]’s mobilisation, and extent of its connectivity to the international community, are beyond the imagination of pro-democracy leaders of the past.”
He recalled that when a prison staff member asked why he was jailed, he quoted the court judgment saying that it was his “naivety.” He said that the judge might have been right, but “if our spirits persist, Hong Kong will not fall.”
Five years after the largely peaceful Umbrella Movement, protests over a now-axed extradition bill erupted last June. Over several months, they morphed into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behavior, amid anger over Beijing’s encroachment.
Chan said that people may have different interpretations of recent protest slogans like “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times.”
“Some want a revolution and to overthrow the government. Some wish to reclaim Hong Kong’s core values, which were once cherished but now lost amid the city’s downfall – for instance, rule of law and freedom,” he added.
Another Umbrella Movement co-founder, law scholar Benny Tai, was released last August pending an appeal whilst League of Social Democrats vice-chair Raphael Wong and social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun were released last October having completed their eight-month jail terms.