HONG KONG – A Hong Kong court has sentenced democracy activists to jail terms of up to 16 months for its roles in demonstrations that led to a 79-day occupation of major roads in 2014.
The protests five years ago demanded more open elections and tried to force Hong Kong’s leaders to go down. Thousands of people joined sit-ins and peaceful street demonstrations, with umbrellas protecting themselves when police used tear gas and pepper sprays to spread the crowds. The demonstrations came to be known as the umbrella movement.
Two professors, Benny Tai and Chan Kin-man, and a retired pastor, Chu Yiu-ming, who were convicted for this month of serious charges, were sentenced to 1
6 months in prison. Chu, 75, was sentenced for two years because of his age. Mr. Tai and Mr. Chan was ordered to begin immediately his sins.
They were the founder of Occupy Central with love and peace, a group that murdered non-violent civil disobedience in the pursuit of democratic reform. Their group had called for a short two or three day effort, but it became a much longer task for city streets after police used tear gas and pepper spray on student awards.
In a summary of the judgment, Judge Johnny Chan of the District Court said that the demonstrations had resulted in “unreasonable” obstruction, and so the leaders had forfeited the legal protection of peaceful demonstration.
“The court argued that a complication charge that would cause general inconvenience would not generate a chilling effect in society and silence many legitimate speeches the defendants claim,” the summary read.
In a previous report, Amnesty International said that the “vague and ambiguous accusations” and the delays in prosecution had a cooling effect on the right to free expression and peaceful assembly.
Six other defendants were convicted of related public nuisances. They are Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun, both current legislators; Lee Wing-tat, a former legislator; Tommy Cheung and Eason Chung, who were student leaders; and Raphael Wong, a member of the Social Democratic League, a democratic party.
Chans, the current legislature, ceased until June 10 for her to undergo a major operation.
The activists said after the verdict that they were honored to serve in the movement and that, despite their convictions, they did not regret their commitment. Some of their lawyers asked for a sentence about community service rather than imprisonment.
“We must understand that the powerful collectors of the political economy, and finding the right place and hammering on it relentlessly,” Mr Chung, the 26-year-old former student leader said in a court ruling before the judgment translated from Chinese by Hong Kong Free Press. “There are no saints to follow on this journey.”
Mr. Chung did not ask for a community service order.
Mr. Tai and Chan, who were also convicted of incitement to commit serious abuse, said they would not request reduced sentences, instead ask the court not to impose a prison sentence on Chu, who is in poor health.
Chu, who helped the activists to flee China after the deadly 1989 breakdown on demonstrations around Tiananmen Square, described himself as a “bell toller” in the umbrella movement.
Three student protocol leaders, Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law, received prison sentences of six to eight months in 2017. Hong Kong’s Supreme Court drove these sentences last year but also held harder judgments for future crimes.