Former Bar Association chairman Paul Shieh Wing-tai said he believes the 16 young activists jailed last week by the Court of Appeal deserve respect, but they also need to realize there is a price to pay for civil disobedience.
In an interview with RTHK on Tuesday, Shieh sought to clarify what he said on Sunday, that the prison sentences only helped them “get what they seek”, stressing that he did not mean they deserved their punishment, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Youth leaders Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, who led students in storming a barricaded area outside government headquarters in September 2014, were given prison sentences last Thursday, two days after 13 young activists were jailed for storming a Legislative Council meeting in protest against the government’s development plans for the northeastern New Territories.
Shieh said he personally respected their sacrifice for achieving their ideals through civil disobedience, and he did not mean to mock the three jailed activists.
He said those who committed acts of civil disobedience were penalized, adding that he actually voted for Law in the Legislative Council election in September last year.
“It is understandable that many people feel angry about the court rulings, but it is not right to say the rule of law in Hong Kong is dead and to cry ‘political persecution’,” Shieh said.
He also said the activists should not to be knocked down by the prison sentences for “where there is life, there is hope”.
Commenting on the decision of the Department of Justice to appeal for harsher sentences for the activists, which led to their jail terms, Shieh admitted the move made people feel that it was pushing the activists into a corner, but he said it is legally indisputable that the justice department has its reasons to do so.
Still, Shieh urged Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen to come forward and explain why his department wants to achieve its purpose so relentlessly, hk01.com reported.
Civic Party chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit, who had also chaired the Bar Association, told the same program that it is good to see young people fighting for what they want and their courage deserves understanding and inclusivesness.
Leong also said the justice secretary could have avoided arousing suspicion but failed to do so, and so people now suspect he holds a grudge against the student leaders.
Meanwhile, Wong expressed his gratitude to the thousands of people who joined Sunday’s march in support of the jailed activists, Apple Daily reported.
Wong, who is currently serving his sentence at Pik Uk Correctional Institution in Sai Kung, said he was touched and felt proud after learning about the massive rally, and he believes there is still hope for Hong Kong democracy.
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