Hong Kong protest leaders surrender

By Catherine Wong Tsoi-lai Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-4 0:28:02

Govt yet to decide whether to bring charges, hunger strike continues

Four protest leaders, from left, Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chan Kin-man, Joseph Zen and Chu Yiu-ming, surrounded by police officers, walk to the police station in Hong Kong as they surrender to police Wednesday to take responsibility for protests that have shut down parts of the Asian financial center for more than two months. Photo: AP

Three Occupy Central movement founders and dozens of other participants in the two-month protests turned themselves in on Wednesday, even as some student protesters continued their hunger strike.

It comes after an uptick in violence in the protests and an attempt to surround Hong Kong's Legislative Council. Both the central government and Hong Kong authorities have repeatedly warned the protests were illegal.

Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chan Kin-man and Chu Yiu-ming on Wednesday led a group of protesters to a police station so they could turn themselves in over their roles in the demonstrations. Police had not, however, issued warrants for their arrests.

Speaking outside a police station after he turned himself in, Tai urged the remaining protesters at the sites to end the demonstration as soon as possible and surrender themselves to police.

The three were joined by Cardinal Joseph Zen, 82, a former Catholic Bishop of Hong Kong, who also turned himself in.

Police said a total of 65 people aged between 20 and 82 had surrendered by 7 pm for "taking part in unlawful assembly," and authorities would conduct unbiased follow-up investigations based on the information provided.

Earlier reports said 24 protestors were released without charge after staying in the police station for an hour.

There were no reports about whether the remaining people were let go.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's Department of Justice Wednesday appointed a prosecutor to handle the case and will decide whether charges will be brought. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said the case will be handled in accordance with related procedures and law.

"Their surrender is in fact an alternative way of announcing their protest has failed and is coming to an end. It will not be long before the authorities clear the remaining protest sites," Gary Ching, representative of anti-Occupy group Alliance for Peace and Democracy, told the Global Times.

The three protest leaders will face more serious legal consequences for their role in leading the protest, lawyers said. 

"The leaders will be considered the main offenders and will face more serious charges for their roles in inciting other people to join an organized illegal activity," said Phyllis Kwong Ka-yin, a lawyer who represents a taxi drivers› group that helped push the court order to clear the protest sites previously.

"Although Tai retreated from the frontline shortly after the protests begun, he will not escape responsibility for publicly rallying supporters for the protests, which have caused violence," Kwong told the Global Times.

"The process will take a while …, but this is the beginning of the end. The protests have already lost public support, even the foreign and local press has become less sympathetic [over time]," Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, former security chief and a top adviser to the Hong Kong Chief Executive, told the Global Times.

Two more members of the student group Scholarism reportedly joined the hunger strike that Joshua Wong Chi-fung, one of the student protest leaders, started Monday with two other members.

Wong said that he will not heed Tai's call to surrender himself, and will go on with the indefinite hunger strike until the local government agrees to meet with students to discuss restarting consultations over Hong Kong's political reform.

A previous dialogue held in October failed to close the gap between the Hong Kong government and student leaders, who led the ongoing demonstration to call for wider representation in the choice of candidates for the 2017 election of Hong Kong's next chief executive. 

A split of opinions among the protest leaders continues to surface as another student leader, Alex Chow Yong-kang of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, admitted that continuing with the protest would not help with their hope of pressuring the government.

Chow said he and his members will not turn themselves in for the time being, and will decide whether to continue with the protests in the following few days.

The Occupy Central movement that began in late September has seen dwindling participation after the prolonged blockade of key roads and disruption to business.

Authorities cleared protesters from the bustling working-class district of Mong Kok last week, triggering student protesters to escalate their action by blocking the government headquarters on Monday.

But the student leaders' tactic has failed under waning support, said Ip, as they have managed to rally far fewer protesters than they had expected.

As for the next step, Ip believes authorities will soon take action to clear the remaining protesters after an injunction takes effect on the main protest site in Admiralty near the government headquarters, before they finally clear the few remaining protesters gathered in the shopping district of Causeway Bay.

However, both Ip and Ching remain skeptical of the three protest leaders' sincerity in admitting their illegal behavior, and said it could be a gesture to flaunt their self-assumed heroism by taking the moral high ground. 

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