by WorldTribune Staff, February 6, 2018
Three leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement vowed to continue their fight after their sentences were reversed by the Chinese-ruled city’s Court of Final Appeal on Feb. 6.
In a unanimous decision, a panel of five judges cleared Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow. The three activists had been charged with “unlawful assembly” after they and others stormed into a fenced-off area in front of government headquarters in September 2014.
The protest sparked the “Umbrella movement,” which pushed for full democracy in Hong Kong and brought parts of the city to a standstill for three months.
“It’s not a time for celebration … It’s a long term battle for us in the future,” said Wong after the Feb. 6 verdict.
The five judges, including a non-permanent foreign judge, Lord Leonard Hoffmann, said in the judgment that they had “quashed the sentences of imprisonment” by the Court of Appeal, Reuters reported.
The judges also warned that “future offenders involved in large-scale unlawful assemblies involving violence” will be subject to stricter guidelines by the court.
The judges said: “There is no constitutional justification for violent unlawful behavior. In such a case involving violence, a deterrent sentence may be called for and will not be objectionable on the ground that it creates a ‘chilling effect’ on the exercise of a constitutional right.”
“Maybe more and more activists will be locked up because of this harsh judgment … We must urge people to continue to fight for democracy,” Wong said.
Amnesty International’s Hong Kong director, Mabel Au, said in a statement that the court had: “corrected an injustice” but added that “all politically motivated prosecutions aimed at silencing those promoting democracy in Hong Kong must be dropped.”
According to the report by Reuters, dozens of other democracy activists have been jailed or are facing court proceedings that could see them sent to prison for various forms of rights activism, “in what some see as a concerted attempt by authorities to curtail the momentum of the city’s youth-led democracy movement.”
Jonathan Man, a lawyer who has represented some of the rights activists, said: “This will have some impact on Hong Kong’s activism … the norm is different now and has shifted to heavier sentences. This is setting a precedent.”