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Hong Kong breaks the Umbrella Movement

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On August 31, 2014, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress issued a decision that candidates for Hong Kong’s elections for chief executive must be pre-approved by Beijing. The decision sparked widespread demonstrations in Hong Kong, which came to be known as the Umbrella Movement (Chinese: 雨傘運動 yǔsǎn yùndòng) after protesters used umbrellas to defend themselves against riot police.

The movement was suppressed on the street with police action, and in the years since then with a steady campaign of legal action. Today brings news of the final destruction of the Umbrella activists’ hopes. Agence France-Presse reports:

Four prominent leaders of Hong Kong’s democracy movement were jailed on Wednesday for their role in organising mass protests in 2014 that paralysed the city for months and infuriated Beijing. The prison terms are the latest hammer blow to the city’s beleaguered democracy movement which has seen key figures jailed or banned from standing as legislators since their demonstrations shook the city but failed to win any concessions…

…Two key leaders of the mass protests — sociology professor Chan Kin-man [陳健民 Chén Jiànmín], 60, and law professor Benny Tai [戴耀廷 Dài Yàotíng], 54 — received the longest sentences of 16 months in jail, sparking tears in court and angry chants from hundreds of supporters gathered outside.

For global reactions to the sentencing, see this article on HKFP: 19 reactions to the Umbrella Movement sentences: Democrats, foreign gov’ts and int’l NGOs decry jailing.

For the pro-Beijing view, read this piece by South China Morning Post columnist Alex Lo, which argues that “the judge has undeniably made a good-faith effort to deliver professional judgments based on common law principles,” and that the sentences struck the “right legal balance.”

Today also brought news of another blow against freedom of expression in Hong Kong, via the South China Morning Post:

Hong Kong’s largest state-controlled book distributor has announced plans to move its warehouse to mainland China, triggering fears of intensified censorship across the city’s billion-dollar publishing industry.

The proposed relocation of SUP Publishing Logistics has been most alarming for Hong Kong’s independent publishers, with the city’s biggest source of local literature — Spicy Fish Cultural Production — saying it would consider terminating a partnership with SUP that has lasted over a decade.

Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

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