The former president of the Hong Kong Law Society has publicly criticised the “inappropriately lenient” sentences handed to three student activists convicted for storming Admiralty’s Civic Square in September 2014, in the lead-up to the pro-democracy Occupy protests.
Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, who was president between 2011 to 2012, slammed the community service and suspended jail sentences handed down to Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang by the Eastern Magistrates’ Court last week as “grossly inadequate”.
In an open letter to the Secretary of Justice published on Friday, Ho called for Magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan’s decision to be reviewed, because the trio were “not remorseful for what they did.” He also claimed that “the sentences may give a dangerous signal that similar behaviours will likewise be dealt with lightly.”
“I am surprised and appalled by the sentences,” wrote Ho, “I hope urgent consideration is being given to apply [sic] to the magistrate for a review of the sentence.” He said that the Secretary of Justice is “duty-bound” to ensure that sentences meted out to convicted criminals are “appropriate”.
For their respective actions during the storming of Civic Square in front of government headquarters in September 2014, Wong and Chow were found guilty this July of taking part in an unlawful assembly. Law was found guilty of inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly.
Last week, Wong and Law were sentenced to 80 and 120 hours’ community service respectively. Chow was given a three-week jail sentence with a one-year suspension, because he needed to study overseas.
Magistrate Cheung reasoned that the trio had committed their crimes because of “genuine” ideals and societal concerns that they held. She said she did not believe that they intended to harm any security guards or police officers.
The storming of Civic Square in September 2014 took place after a week of class boycotts against a decision by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress that Hong Kong’s Chief Executive candidates must be vetted before a popular election. It led to dozens of arrests of protesters inside the square with police later using tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters. A 79-day protest occupying the main road around Hong Kong then ensued.
At the time, Wong was the convenor of student group Scholarism and Law was a member of the standing committee of the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS). Wong and Law are now members of the political party Demosistō. Chow was a former secretary-general of HKFS.
A solicitor by profession, Junius Ho is also a district councillor of Tuen Mun, and an independent candidate for the New Territories West constituency in the Legislative Council election this year. He is widely considered a pro-Beijing figure.
In October last year, he was controversially appointed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying into the council of Hong Kong’s Lingnan University amid sit-in student protests.
The full list of candidates in the Legislative Council election on September 4 can be viewed here.