A Hong Kong courtroom on Tuesday was packed with hundreds of supporters of three young protesters accused of rioting and assaulting police officers.
The crowd outside the courtroom chanted “Fight for freedom” and “Stand with Hong Kong,” while many seated in the public gallery wore the type of face masks favored by protesters.
The South China Morning Post reported that two of the defendants were released on bail, while the third was taken into custody on more serious charges. According to the South China Morning Post :
Eastern Court heard the three cases stemmed from protests at New Town Plaza in Sha Tin on July 14, Hong Kong International Airport at Chek Lap Kok on August 13 and North Point last Sunday, September 15.
The two younger men, both students, were granted bail on condition they obey a curfew and stay away from the scenes of the alleged offences.
But Yip Man-leong, a 23-year-old technical worker accused of rioting and inflicting grievous bodily harm on police officer Wong Yiu-wa at the airport last month, was remanded in custody after the magistrate sided with prosecutors.
Chan Yi-chun, 19, who was arrested with 28 others in North Point on Sunday, has been charged with the assault of police officer Ma Chi-shing and possession of an offensive weapon in a public place, namely an extendable baton, outside Seven Seas Commercial Centre on Kings Road.
Another student, Lee Man-him, 16, was accused of taking part in an unlawful assembly at New Town Plaza, and wounding officer Cheung Lik-hang with intent to do him grievous bodily harm.
In another court case mentioned by the South China Morning Post, a driver working for public broadcast service RTHK sued the police commissioner because he was allegedly injured by a tear gas grenade in June despite wearing a distinctive reflective vest to identify himself as a member of the press.
The authorities in Hong Kong have charged dozens of protesters with rioting, releasing most of them on bail. Protesters are angered by these charges, accusing the police of using excessive force and dismissing riot allegations as an intimidation tactic by Hong Kong officials and their superiors in mainland China.
The five key demands of the protest movement include an independent inquiry into the use of force by the police, amnesty for protesters that have been arrested, and a halt to government efforts at portraying the protests as riots. The protesters have taken to symbolically insisting all five demands must be met by thrusting their open hands into the air. Government officials say one of the demands was granted when a controversial extradition bill was formally withdrawn, but there will be no more concessions.
Another battle for Hong Kong was fought in corporate space on Wednesday when Chinese internet users demanded a boycott of French bank BNP Paribas because an unidentified employee posted Facebook messages supporting the protest movement and calling for Hong Kong independence.
BNP on Friday apologized for “the offense caused by a social media post that was expressed on one of our employees’ personal accounts,” insisted the employee did not speak for the corporation and said unspecified “immediate action” had been taken.
This was not good enough for Chinese social media users, who urged a boycott that would be devastating to BNP’s ambition to expand operations in China. Critics of the company also scoured its website and found references to Hong Kong and Taiwan that implied they were countries separate from China, a practice that has drawn boycott threats and punitive measures from the Chinese government with several other Western companies.