Hong Kong’s top court has given permission to three jailed former student leaders known for their leading roles during the pro-democracy Occupy movement in 2014 to appeal against their prison sentences, saying there are some legal points worth considering.
Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li of the Court of Final Appeal said on Tuesday that the decision was made after the court went through written arguments from the prosecution and the appellants, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang, were given prison sentences in August for storming a barricaded area outside government headquarters several days before the Occupy protests began on Sept. 29, 2014.
The Court of Appeal sentenced them to six to eight months in prison after the Department of Justice applied for judicial reviews to have a lower court’s decision to spare them jail overturned.
Ma said the ruling by the appellate court posed four legal questions that remain to be answered:
1. To what extent can the appellate court modify, substitute or supplement the decision made by the original court?
2. How much weight should the appellate court place on the defendants’ motives when sentencing them, especially as civil disobedience and exercise of constitutional rights were involved in the motives?
3. To what degree did the appellate court adopt new sentencing guidelines to affect the original ruling?
4. Is it legally correct to sentence Wong to jail based on the fact that he was under 21 when the act he was charged with took place?
Since the public interest is involved in these legal questions, the trio should be allowed to lodge appeals, Ma said.
The appeal will be heard on Jan. 16. The three have been granted bail.
Chow, who was released on bail on Tuesday under the condition that he cannot leave Hong Kong and has to report to police every week, told the media that he is confident of winning his appeal and happy to be reunited with Wong and Law.
He added that he “owes special thanks” to Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung for giving the three of them a “magical journey”.
Wong expressed optimism about the appeal while Law said he hopes the final ruling will help protect people’s freedom of assembly.
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