Democracy Chronicles author and leading Hong Kong democracy activist Benny Tai continues to be the target of slanderous reporting by Chinese state news. Chinese media have made Tai particularly into a target of its propaganda machine. Along with eight other members of the Occupy Hong Kong movement, Tai is currently awaiting the results of his trial in Hong Kong. They are facing up to 7 years in prison for their role organizing the peaceful pro-democracy protests of 2014.
Chinese media attacks on Tai have not stopped. The latest and perhaps most outrageous attack was exposed by the Malaysia Kini, a newspaper based in Petaling Jaya near Kuala Lumpur:
Malaysian opposition party, “PKR’s Machang Bubuk assembly person Lee Khai Loon has accused a Chinese state newspaper of misreporting on his recent visit to Hong Kong. The daily, Ta Kung Pao, linked Lee’s appearance at a forum on the Hong Kong pro-independence movement and branded him “the Malaysian Joshua Wong,” in reference to the prominent young Hong Kong student activist and politician.”
“The daily alleged that Lee had met with Hong Kong democracy activist Benny Tai in secret to discuss moving a “separatist training camp” to Malaysia.”
The outrageous accusation that Tai is involved with any kind of “separatist training camp” in Malaysia is a new low. Tai and his allies seek only peaceful change towards democracy. China’s attacks on him 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.
Benny Tai emailed Democracy Chronicles Editor-in-Chief Adrian Tawfik in November asking that we do our best to share news of his trial and to share a call for help. The trial began in Hong Kong on November 19, 2018 and a verdict is expect by April. On November 14th, days before his trial, Benny Tai was kind enough to answer some questions about the trial and democracy in Hong Kong in an interview by email. You can see that exchange here.
No matter where you are, Benny and his friends need your support. I met him at the 2015 New York Times Athens Democracy Forum in Athens, Greece where he was representing the Hong Kong Occupy Movement. He is one of the nicest people you will ever know and is risking everything for democracy. Please take action as outlined by Amnesty International in this link. We ask that you please share the call for help to your friends too.