Democrats demand reform of H’Kong unlawful gathering and rioting laws

After months of unrest in Hong Kong, Democrats Au Nok-hin and Eddie Chu drafted a private members’ bill requesting for amendment of Hong Kong’s riot law.

The protest led to an election that recorded massive turnout and handed victory to pro-democracy local district council candidates.

The Democrats won a majority in 17 out of 18 district councils, all of which were previously under pro-establishment control.

The pro-democracy policymakers in Hong Kong have proposed a bill to amend the public order ordinance to change the definitions of unlawful assembly and a riot.  The lawmakers also seek to reduce the relevant punishments for the charges.

Hong Kong’s Department of Justice has also approved the draft of the amendments which requires written approval from Chief Executive Carrie Lam before it is presented in Legislative Council.

Au Nok-hin and Eddie Chu bill are targeted towards amending the maximum sentence for unlawful assembly from three years to six months and reducing the possible sentence for rioting from ten years to three.

At least 5,800 people were arrested during the protest, of which nearly 500 were charged with rioting. Protests had hit the vibrant business city which remains under the control of China since 1998.

Democrats proposed the Bill

The pro-democracy movements propose amending the law that was implemented in 1967 to control a leftist protest movement.

They proposed changing the requirement for an unlawful assembly conviction, from breach of peace to a more specific charge of using violence to disrupt public order.

They also proposed that, if people did not use violence, or did not realize their actions may be violent, they should not be convicted of rioting, or assisting or abetting rioting.

The democrats further proposed that for anyone to be convicted of rioting, the minimum number of people involved should begin from 12, and they must possess a common purpose.

They have argued that using the term riots in recent protests was controversial and, demonstrators have demanded that the government stop using the phrase. They also demanded that rioting cases should only be tried at the court of the first instance or above with a jury.

Lawmaker Eddie Chu said it would be an important test to see if Carrie Lam would allow the draft bill to be discussed at the legislature, as the chief executive is able to block certain bills.

Fresh headache for China

The victory of Democrats candidates in Hong Kong election poses a new challenge for Beijing, adding pressure on the city’s leader.

The vote underscores a deep pool of support for the protest movement, despite occasional violence by protesters.

Many voters said they wanted to punish the pro-Beijing camp for backing the extradition bill despite a mass airing of public concerns.

Meanwhile, Beijing has accused western powers of interfering in Chinese internal affairs over Xinjiang and Hong Kong. And may impose travel sanctions on US officials and lawmakers to China, after demonstrators gathered to pay gratitude to Trump for supporting them.

Photo from: Facebook/Au Nok-hin