Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Despite Potential Prison Term, Hong Kong Occupy Central Leader Benny Tai Speaks Out

Benny Tai during his interview.
Facing a "conspiracy" trial in 2018 for leading Hong Kong's Occupy Central with Peace and Love, HKU Law Prof. Benny Tai is remarkably composed and even jovial.  When interviewed last month (19 October 2017) in his law school office, he addressed legal issues such as retroactivity of Beijing's interpretations of Hong Kong's Basic Law, as well as whether resentencing the Umbrella Movement youth leaders to harsher punishment constitutes double jeopardy.   He says he tried to argue in legal papers submitted by others to the appellate court that the interpretations over Legislative Council oath taking should not be retroactive, but his argument was not sustained.  And while it is not double jeopardy to increase sentences, the question is whether the appellate authorities were in fact rehearing the case rather than considering new evidence.
Tai and other Occupy Central leaders 1 Oct 2017

As for his own plight, he has decided to be over careful, and not keep documents that would identify others since he is charged with an open-ended conspiracy count.  As for preparing for prison, he has kept calm and says that in the event he is convicted over charges relating to leading the 2014 civil disobedience he will issue a call internationally asking law faculty to write to the Dean of the HKU Law Faculty detailing how their particular countries will deal with law faculty who are sent to prison.  Will his job be at stake?  In the event a tribunal is sent up to consider it at HKU, he appears hopeful.  (At the same time he dismisses current efforts by pro-Beijing elements to get him fired right now.)

In fact he says his lawyer took on his case only because the latter expected to win it, not to lose it.  Could it be his lawyer is more optimistic than he is?  In any case, he seems prepared to spend months in prison, as Hong Kong increasingly heads down an authoritarian path.

1 Oct 2017 demo vs authoritarianism, animated

The interview is available in audio (some 40+ minutes).  It was was conducted by Subversity Show Online host Daniel C. Tsang.  Images, audio and text, © Copyright Daniel C. Tsang.

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