First charges against Hong Kong anti-government protester

First charges against Hong Kong anti-government protester

Anti-extradition bill protesters wearing helmets gather outside the Legislative Council building on
Anti-extradition bill protesters wearing helmets gather outside the Legislative Council building on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2019. Picture taken July 1, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

HONG KONG: A Hong Kong street artist was charged on Friday (Jul 5) with assaulting a police officer and criminal damage, the first prosecution against an anti-government protester since the city was rocked by unprecedented demonstrations.

Sparked by a law that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, the city has witnessed three huge peaceful rallies as well as civil disobedience and violence from a core of protesters who besieged the police headquarters. 

On Monday, tens of thousands of protesters stormed and ransacked the government headquarters.

Damage inside Hong Kong Legislative Council 8
Placards of Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam (2nd left), Secretary for Security John Lee (right) and Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng are seen after protesters stormed the government headquarters hours before in Hong Kong early on Jul 2, 2019. (Photo: AFP / Anthony Wallace)
Damage inside Hong Kong Legislative Council 2
Hong Kong police arrive after protesters stormed the government headquarters hours before. (Photo: AFP / Anthony Wallace)

READ: Commentary: Hong Kong protests may have crossed the point of no return

Authorities have vowed to hunt those behind the unrest that has plunged the semi-autonomous city's Beijing-backed government into crisis.

Pun Ho-chiu, 31, appeared in court on Friday over his alleged involvement in the blockade of the city's police headquarters on Jun 21.

He was also charged with disorderly behaviour for throwing eggs at police outside the headquarters during the six-hour siege.

Broken glass is seen at the Legislative Council a day after protesters broke into the building, in
Broken glass is seen at the Legislative Council a day after protesters broke into the building, in Hong Kong, China July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Protesters break into the Legislative Council building during the anniversary of Hong Kong's h
Protesters break into the Legislative Council building during the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China on Jul 1, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

A well-known activist nicknamed "Painter" for his street art, Pun was remanded in custody and faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

Forensic investigators have been combing through the trashed parliament building for fingerprints and DNA evidence that might help them uncover which protesters were involved in the breach that left the building wrecked, its walls daubed with slogans such as "HK is not China" and a colonial-era flag pinned to the legislature's podium.

Police have yet to release a tally on how many have been arrested over the month of protests but local media reported that dozens have been detained so far.

The protests present the most severe challenge to Beijing and Hong Kong's leaders since the city's handover to China. 

READ: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam seeks meeting with students after mass protests

Critics say Beijing has ratcheted up control over the city in recent years, stamping down on dissidents and refusing calls for universal suffrage.

While the current protests were sparked by huge public opposition to the extradition Bill they have since morphed into a broad anti-government movement.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam
Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaking to the media at police headquarters after protesters ransacked the assembly on the anniversary of the territory's handover to China. (Photo: AFP/Anthony Wallace)

City leader Carrie Lam has postponed the legislation but the move has failed to quell public anger.

Protesters have demanded she withdraw the Bill entirely, launch an independent inquiry into police use of tear gas and rubber bullets, and for her to step down.

Since the parliament building siege, Beijing has vocally thrown its support behind Lam, calling on Hong Kong authorities to pursue all those involved in the ransacking.

Multiple university student groups confirmed they had rejected an approach this week by Lam's administration for closed-door talks, arguing it was "too little, too late".

READ: What the world said about the Hong Kong protests

The students said they would only agree to talks if the government granted an amnesty to those arrested and held the dialogue in public.

Lam led talks with student leaders during the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests that occupied parts of the city for two months but failed to win any concessions from Beijing.

Source: AFP/aa

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