Hong Kong government prosecutors have failed in their bid to have jail sentences imposed on three student leaders for storming government headquarters before the Occupy Central protests in 2014.
Nathan Law, who became the youngest legislator in Hong Kong history when elected to the legislature this month at the age of 23, 19-year-old Joshua Wong, who co-founded the Demosisto party, which advocates self-determination for the territory, and student leader Alex Chow, 25, will all serve community service or suspended sentences.
Hong Kong has been run under a “one country, two systems” deal since reverting to Chinese rule in 1997, but tensions are running high amid fears Beijing is trying to tighten its grip on the former British colony.
Prosecutors for the Hong Kong department of justice had wanted the trio to go to jail, after Eastern Court magistrate June Cheung had earlier given the students noncustodial sentences.
The prosecutors argued that the three activists’ decision to storm a public square outside Hong Kong’s legislative buildings, together with about 100 other demonstrators on September 24th, 2014, was “a premeditated show of force”.
They related the attack to illegal assembly tactics used by triad gang members, which prompted laughter in the court, the South China Morning Post reported.
Ms Cheung had sentenced Mr Wong and Mr Law to 80 and 120 hours of community service respectively, while Mr Chow was given a three-week jail term suspended for one year. She had argued that the trio had acted out of genuinely held political ideals or concern for society.
Joshua Wong had feared he would go to jail and was delighted that the appeal had been thrown out, but he remained defiant in his pursuit of self-determination.
“My acts in Hong Kong will not change. Civil disobedience will still be the strategy for me to fight for democracy and human rights. We were not afraid it would end our work for democracy and the human rights movement,” Mr Wong told The Irish Times.
“I truly believe that the sentencing by the department of justice and from the government was politically motivated and not legally motivated.”