I am extremely unhappy to announce that a sentence of 7 years prison has been inflicted upon our author Benny Tai and his allies in Hong Kong. If you haven’t kept up with the latest news, here is a brief summary from Bloomberg’s Natalie Lung:
A Hong Kong court found democracy activist Benny Tai guilty for his role in organizing the Occupy protests, the latest step in the China-backed government’s effort to punish leaders of demonstrations that rocked the former British colony almost five years ago.
Tai, an associate law professor at the University of Hong Kong, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit public nuisance and incitement to commit public nuisance by District Court Judge Johnny Chan on Tuesday in West Kowloon. He was among nine academics, activists and politicians convicted of charges related to their roles in organizing mass rallies that lasted 79 days.
Tai has been the target of slanderous reporting by Chinese state news for his role organizing the peaceful pro-democracy protests of 2014, known by several names including the Umbrella Revolution and Occupy Hong Kong. China’s attacks on Tai in the press and the trial of Tai and his allies are clearly part of a Chinese government campaign to squash his calls for democracy in Hong Kong.
In his closing argument in court, Tai was impassioned. He stood and spoke to the court in a non-violent style reminiscent of Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela by telling the court that “Non-violence was the overarching principle of the Occupy Central with Love and Peace Movement. The act of civil disobedience, i.e. occupy Central, was the last resort of the movement.” You can read Tai’s entire closing argument in full here, where the eloquent Tai finished his defense with this line:
If we were to be guilty, we will be guilty for daring to share hope at this difficult time in Hong Kong. I am not afraid or ashamed of going to prison. If this is the cup I must take, I will drink with no regret.
Ahead of his trial, 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. Take a look at that exchange here.