In an emotional but expected postscript to the 2014 Occupy Movement, the Court of Appeal on Thursday sentenced three student leaders who kicked off the 79-day pro-democracy protests to prison sentences of six to eight months after government prosecutors sought harsher punishment for the young activists.
Joshua Wong Chi-fung, 20, was jailed for six months, Nathan Law Kwun-chung, 24, got eight months, and Alex Chow Yong-kang, 26, seven months.
Wong and Chow were convicted of unlawful assembly last year while Law was found guilty of inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly, for storming the government headquarters in Admiralty in a bid to “reclaim” the barricaded Civic Square, a popular protest venue.
The incident, which took place on Sept. 26, 2014, signaled the start of the Occupy protests.
The three activists, along with their parents, were calm as the sentences were read. Wong, convenor and founder of the defunct Scholarism and secretary-general of the youth political party Demosistō, said before Thursday’s hearing that they were prepared to go to jail.
The prison terms mean they cannot run for public office for a period of five years. In July this year, Law, chairman of Demosistō, was unseated as member of the Legislative Council after the High Court ruled that his oath-taking was not valid.
Wong and Law were originally ordered to do community service while Chow, former secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, was given a three-week jail sentence suspended for one year because of his studies in Britain.
But the Department of Justice, headed by Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, a holdover from the administration of former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, considered the punishment inadequate and last week submitted an application for a judicial review to the appellate court.
In the three-judge panel’s ruling, the vice president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Wally Yeung Chun-kuen, said the original sentences were obviously too lenient, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
In view of the unlawful acts committed by the defendants and their attitude, community service or suspended jail sentence was inadequate and did not reflect the seriousness of the offenses.
Yuen also criticized a “sick trend” in society, where people commit unlawful acts with the excuse that they are pursuing idealistic goals or exercising their legal rights.
It was the same three-member panel who sentenced on Tuesday 13 other pro-democracy activists to jail for eight to 13 months for unlawful assembly.
Ahead of Thursday’s ruling, a tearful crowd of about 100 gathered in the lobby of the court building, chanting support for the student leaders, while pro-Beijing groups demonstrated outside, public broadcaster RTHK reported.
After the sentences were read, Wong shouted: “Hongkongers, do not give up!” as he was escorted away, the report said.
The pro-democracy trio said in a statement they would lodge an appeal before the Court of Final Appeal.
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