British activist convicted of public nuisance for running on Hong Kong race track

A British resident of Hong Kong was convicted of disorderly conduct and causing a public nuisance for running on a popular race track dressed as a horse last year to urge full democracy in the Chinese territory.

Matt Pearce, a longtime Hong Kong resident from Bristol, England, was given a one-month jail term Wednesday for each of the two charges, but the sentences were suspended for 18 months.

He pleaded innocent to both charges.

The 30-year-old English teacher donned a horse costume emblazoned with the words "Demand Democracy Now" on Dec. 12, 2004, and ran on the Shatin race track. He said he was following the example of British suffragette Emily Davidson, who in 1913 ran onto a British race track demanding women's right to vote, and was killed by a horse.

Pearce is "horrified that his nonviolent and good-humored protest has resulted in a sentence of imprisonment for him," his lawyer, Michael Vidler, said in a statement.

The activist has lodged appeals of the conviction and sentence, Vidler said.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club, sole operator of Hong Kong's horse races, said it welcomed the verdict.

"We hope the conviction sends a clear message that this sort of activity will not be tolerated," the club said in a statement.

Pearce, who has been living in the former British colony since its return to Chinese rule in 1997, is best known for dressing up as Spider-Man and climbing on top of a jumbo TV screen in Hong Kong's central business district to protest Beijing's bloody crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

He was also charged with causing a public nuisance for that protest but no trial date has been set, AP reported. V.A.