A Hong Kong court has sentenced a 23-year-old activist to two years in jail after finding him guilty of conspiracy to commit arson in relation to a 2015 incident outside the Legislative Council building
Joe Yeung Yat-long, former secretary general of the Student Union of Hong Kong Shue Yan University, was handed the prison term on Wednesday after he was accused of setting on fire a rubbish bin outside Legco during a protest in December 2015, causing an explosion.
Meanwhile, an accomplice — a Chinese Culinary Institute student surnamed Ip — who was also on trial over the same incident was ordered to a detention center, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
In a ruling, District Court judge Wong Sze-lai condemned the duo’s acts as “stupid, selfish and reckless”, stressing that people should not resort to illegal means to voice discontent, regardless of how noble their political ideals may be.
The court heard earlier that the Yeung and Ip had endangered public safety though reckless actions on Dec. 9, 2015 when the Legco was debating the contentious Copyright (Amendment) Bill.
Several hours after the Legco adjourned a meeting because it did not have a quorum to start the second reading of proposed amendments to the copyright law, a trash bin outside the Legco building was seen engulfed in fire, followed by explosions.
Investigations, helped by video footage from security cameras inside and outside the Legco building, led the police to arrest several people later that month, including Yeung and Ip, who were charged with conspiracy to commit arson.
Yeung pleaded not guilty to the charge but Ip, who is aged 20, admitted that he did indeed break the law.
Describing the case as serious and involving a premeditated act, Judge Wong said the outcome could have been unimaginable had the fire spread. It is sheer luck that that no one was hurt in the incident, she said.
Wong said believes there had been discussions and division of labor among the activists in relation to their violent protest.
Strong punishment was needed to serve as a deterrent and send a message that no one can express his or her emotion in a dangerous way, the judge said.
However, as Ip, unlike Yeung, had admitted to his guilt and shown remorse, he deserved a relatively lighter sentence, she said.
Following the ruling, the two activists will have to serve their sentence immediately, as they have not sought bail.
In related news, lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai on Wednesday posted on his Facebook page articles and letters written by Yeung when he was remanded in custody this month before his conviction.
In the posts, Yeung called on jailed demonstrators to “keep a clear mind so as not to be assimilated by the environment of prison, and stay strong in dark time”, Ming Pao Daily reports.
The activist also said he hopes people will write often from outside to the jailed protesters, but he cautioned that the letters should not reveal any personal information.
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