Convicted lawmaker spared jail amid health battle

Top News | Sophie Hui 11 Jun 2019

Convicted lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong was spared jail after being handed an eight-month sentence, suspended for two years, for her involvement in the Occupy movement.

Chan was the last of nine defendants to be sentenced as she had to undergo surgery to remove a brain tumor as big as a ping-pong ball.

District Court Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng was told at the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court yesterday that she needs to undergo radiation therapy every Friday and Sunday to ensure her tumor complete disappears.

Chan, 47, was found guilty on one count of inciting others to commit public nuisance and another of inciting others to incite.

Her lawyer Wong Ching-yu asked the court for a suspended sentence as her tumor could not be removed completely as part of it was close to her brain stem.

Chan has to undergo 30 sessions of radiotherapy in three months and the tumor will get bigger if she does not receive treatment, Wong said.

Wong also said Chan is suffering from side effects of post-surgery, including double vision and having trouble keeping her balance. He said she needs assistance from others in her daily activities, including walking.

Judge Chan suspended the sentence after considering the lawmaker's condition. A picture submitted by Wong showed that she has a long scar on the back of her head.

Wong said it is unlikely anyone would take such a risk to escape an eight-month prison sentence. Judge Chan acknowledged the lawmaker's illness and her treatment schedule as genuine.

He said the original sentence was nine months, but considering Chan has a good personal character and has been serving Hong Kong for 13 years, he decided to deduct a month from the jail term.

Chan, who had a walking stick, said outside court that she appreciated the help of her medical and legal teams, as well as the blessings and support of Hongkongers.

"I will stay healthy, try my very best to improve my condition, consult a specialist within these few weeks and start my radiotherapy as soon as possible," she said.

"What I need now is stay healthy, and I will stay at home quietly. But at the same time, I will try to accept my present condition and hope that I can start my radiotherapy and regain my health and strength as soon as possible."

When asked if she will appeal, she said she will let her legal team "handle it."

Although Chan's sentence was suspended, her status as a lawmaker hangs in the balance. Article 79 of the Basic Law states that lawmakers could lose their seat if they are convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for one month or more due to a criminal offense.

It adds that a motion to relieve lawmakers of their duties needs to be passed by two-thirds of present legislators.

Article 39 of the Legislative Council Ordinance also states that anyone who is sentenced to a jail term exceeding three months, whether it is suspended or not, without the option of a fine, is not allowed to run in any election for five years from the date of conviction.

That means Chan will not be able to run in the 2020 elections.

Moreover, Chan's barrister qualification may be affected after she was convicted of a criminal offense.

She may face a hearing before the Hong Kong Bar Association, where it will be decided whether she should be sanctioned.

The other eight defendants in the case were sentenced in April.

The Occupy founding trio of Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming were all jailed for 16 months. Chu's sentence, however, was suspended for two years.

Convicted lawmaker Bottle Shiu Ka-chun and League of Social Democrats vice chairman Raphael Wong Ho-ming were jailed for eight months. Ex-legislator Lee Wing-tat was given an eight-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

The court also spared former student leader Eason Chung Yiu-wa from jail by suspending his eight-month sentence. Former student leader Tommy Cheung Sau-yin was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

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