Student protesters didn’t want trio to launch Occupy Central, court hears

Young activists didn’t want founders of Occupy Central to launch their movement alongside their student demonstration, a court heard yesterday, suggesting, once again, discord within the main forces behind 2014’s mass pro-democracy protests.

According to Stand News, the assertion was made by a lawyer for one of the student leaders, Tommy Cheung Sau-ying, who is among nine key figures on trial for their roles in the demonstrations.

The defendants include student leaders, lawmakers and the three co-founders of Occupy Central: law professor Benny Tai, 54, sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 59, and baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, 74.

The protests, which became known as the Umbrella Movement, escalated on September 28, 2014 when students led by Joshua Wong — protesting a proposal by Beijing to vet candidates for the role of the city’s leader — ended a weeklong boycott of classes by storming a forecourt outside the Central Government Offices known as Civic Square.

The police responded by using pepper spray on the students, and arresting some of the students involved including Wong.

At the same time, the co-founders of Occupy Central present at the protests in Admiralty prematurely announced the beginning of their long-planned civil disobedience movement, which was also pushing for “universal suffrage.” Local media reported at the time that the official date for the start of the Occupy Central movement would be October 1, on China’s national day.

The confluence of events, particularly the use of tear gas and heavy handed tactics by police, led thousands to block several major thoroughfares across the city for up to 79 days.

Footage of the Occupy announcement — made by Tai — has previously been shown during the trial. While some scenes show a large group of students leaving, amid accusations of the trio hijacking their protest, Chan has told the court they asked for the students’ blessing.

However defence lawyers for the young activists have sought to offer a different version of events.

At the trial yesterday, lawyer representing Cheung, Hectar Pun Hei, said while students did want the Occupy trio’s support with supplies, manpower and logistics, they didn’t want them to declare the beginning of their movement, calling it a “misunderstanding”, according to the SCMP.

Pun made the assertion while cross examining Chan, who, according to the newspaper, was caught by surprise by the remarks and said while he “couldn’t rule it out” he thought “the possibility would not be high.”

The SCMP wrote that Philip Dykes, a lawyer representing  another student leader, Eason Chung Yiu-wa, also claimed there was a misunderstanding. 

This, he said, was why student leaders next to the Occupy trio looked “surprised” when the movement was declared.

The trial continues.

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