The government has lost its appeal against the sentences of activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Alex Chow Yong-kang, and Nathan Law Kwun-chung. Magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan originally sentenced Wong to a community service order of 80 hours last month. Law was given 120-hour community service, whilst Chow received a three-week jail sentence with a one-year suspension.
The trio led protesters to occupy the forecourt of the government headquarters in Admiralty in 2014 – an incident which helped spark the 79-day pro-democracy Occupy protests. Wong and Chow were convicted of participating in unlawful assembly, and Law was found guilty of inciting others to take part in unlawful assembly on July 15.
The prosecution said that the activists should have been sent to jail owing to the serious nature of unlawful assembly-related crimes.
Its reasoning was that a large number of protesters were involved, several security guards were injured, and the demonstration was planned.
However, magistrate Cheung said on Wednesday that the court’s reasoning for the original sentence was sufficient.
Law, who was recently elected to the Legislative Council, said that the court had criticised the prosecution’s weak legal argument. “Clearly they failed to persuade the court that the sentencing was problematic,” Cheung said.
Wong said the decision reaffirmed public confidence in judicial independence. “Civil disobedience will still [be] the way for us to fight for the future of Hong Kong,” Wong said.
The activists thanked their supporters, and led a small group of them to chant “Fight for democracy” in front of the Eastern Law Court building.
Chow was set to depart for the UK on September 18 to begin his studies at the London School of Economics. However, as the government demanded a review of Chow’s sentencing on September 15, Chow had to cancel his flight.
Additional reporting by Stanley Leung.