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Korean WTO Protesters Face Jail

Posted December. 21, 2005 03:00,   


Hong Kong police who charged 11 Korean WTO protesters for participating in an illegal protest are expected to add charges including assaulting police officers.

South Korean consul Park Gyeong-sik in Hong Kong said on December 20, “I have heard that the Hong Kong police are securing evidence like testimonies and videos in order to add to the charges.”

This matter may last for quite a long time because it is expected the 11 detained protesters will deny the charges.

They may be released next year because Hong Kong courts hold a trial after a certain period of time when a suspect pleads not guilty.

Huh In, the vice chairman of Korea Federation of Transportation, Public and Social Service Workers’ Union, and leaders of Korean protesters said in a press conference held in Hong Kong on the same day: “The protesters were arrested on illegitimate charges. If they are detained for long, we will stage a massive protest again here in Hong Kong.”

They are unlikely to be released within this year because of the added charges.

A hearing held by the Kwun Tong court late in the evening of December 19 was not to hear cases, but to decide whether the Koreans should be detained.

That explains why the police accused them of participating in an illegal protest, a relatively clear charge.

In other words, the police indicted them for a charge that was enough for the court to allow them to be detained, and then will add charges before the formal trial on December 23.

The additional charges may include assaulting police officers and destruction of property. The police seem to have acquired evidence of those charges, including photos of protesters in the act.

Cho Hwan-bok, the South Korean consul general in Hong Kong, said, “The detainees and their lawyers are likely to deny the charges.”

Some say that as the violent demonstration was staged at night on December 17, it would be difficult to identify protesters in photos.”

Hong Kong courts make a ruling immediately if a suspect pleads guilty. If not, they hold a trial again after a certain period of time, typically over 10 days.

They will be tried in a court responsible for minor offenses.

Kwun Tong court in Hong Kong, where the Korean protesters will be tried, is a court that is responsible for judging first-time minor offenses. The court can sentence a suspect to up to two years in jail and up to a HK$100,000 (about 13 million won) fine.

That means that the 11 detainees could be released after being fined or put on probation and then deported back home. They could also be acquitted for lack of evidence.

The Hong Kong court arrested three protesters from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan on December 19, in addition to the 11 South Koreans.

A total of 989 South Korean protesters who were released planned to leave Hong Kong by December 21. But 230 of them have not yet left the country because they failed to secure plane tickets.

On December 20, some of them sent a message of apology and appreciation to Hong Kong citizens, shouting “I love Hong Kong.”

Eun-Woo Lee libra@donga.com