Everyone at Democracy Chronicles is very concerned about the upcoming trial of DC Author Benny Tai. If you haven’t kept up with the latest news, here is a brief summary from the Australian Associated Press:
Nine pro-democracy activists are set to go on trial next Monday in connection with their leading roles in the 2014 Umbrella Revolution protests in Hong Kong… The group includes Benny Tai, Chan Kin-man, and Reverend Chu Yiu-Ming, who founded Occupy Central with Love and Peace, one of the founding groups behind the 79-day protest in 2014 known as the Umbrella Movement, which called for universal suffrage.
Six other Umbrella Revolution leaders, including two sitting legislators, are also to stand trial. They each face up to seven years in prison for charges related to “public nuisance,” including “conspiracy to commit public nuisance,” and “incitement to commit public nuisance.”
Despite his trial on Monday, Benny Tai was kind enough to answer some questions written by DC Founder and Editor-in-Chief Adrian Tawfik to help inform DC readers about what lies ahead for Benny and for democracy in Hong Kong. Enjoy:
Adrian Tawfik: Is there anything about the upcoming trial that you would like the public to know about?
Benny Tai: We want to retell the whole story again so that people in Hong Kong can rethink after the whole movement after the development in these few years.
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and how you came to be interested in politics?
I am an associate professor in law at the University of Hong Kong. I have been teaching at the University of Hong Kong since 1991. I have been participating in the democratic movement in Hong Kong for more than 30 years. In the mid-1980s, I was elected by the students of tertiary institutions in Hong Kong to represent them in the Hong Kong Basic Law Consultative Committee in the drafting of the Basic Law.
After I joined the Faculty of Law, the University of Hong Kong as an academic, I continued my participation in the democratic movement of Hong Kong, but my role has changed. Throughout the years before 2013, I did not stand at the forefront. I played the role as a researcher and a commentator on political, constitutional and legal issues in Hong Kong.
How would you characterize elections in Hong Kong today?
Elections in Hong Kong are neither genuinely democratic nor totally authoritarian.
Are elections run better now than were at anytime under British sovereignty?
There has been not much progress in elections after the 1997 transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the British to China.
What is the state of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong?
The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong is in a difficult time since the Umbrella Movement. Many people are still very frustrated of the lack of advancement but they feel very powerless.
What reforms to Hong Kong’s existing election system are most critical to progress?
Free and fair election of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong is the most important reform needed.
What do you think are the prospects for democracy in Hong Kong in the next decades?
Unless there is big change in China, the future for democracy in Hong Kong is not bright.