The Court of Appeal on Monday handed down the judgment on its decision to jail 13 land activists, stating that the protesters’ act of charging at the Legislative Council building “with violence” was “inconsistent with the spirit of civil disobedience.”
The court said the idea that the protesters committed the offence as an act of civil disobedience was therefore not a mitigating factor: “Rather, their conduct is a serious disruption damaging public order and safety with violence in total disregard of the law,” it said.
Last month, the Court of Appeal sentenced the group to eight to 13 months in prison following their demonstration against the controversial Northeast New Territories development plans in 2014. It followed a successful sentence review by the Department of Justice. The defendants had previously already finished serving their initial community service sentences.
The court ruled that the trial magistrate “erred in law and principle” when he gave community service orders, saying that it must impose a deterrent sentence and that “immediate imprisonment is plainly the only sentencing option.”
This was to sufficiently deter the protesters from re-offending and others from imitating their actions, in order to “safeguard the integrity of the LegCo, protect the rights of those assembling peacefully and lawfully at the LegCo Square and prevent the re-occurrence of violent incidents” at the venue, it said.
The court maintained that the group had “trespassed on the boundary laid down by the law for peaceful assembly” by charging at the Legislative Council complex “with seriously unlawful and violent means.” Therefore, they could not say that the conviction or jail term arose out of them exercising their freedom of demonstration or that the punishment suppressed this freedom, it added.
‘Act with restraint’
Citing Lord Hoffman, the court said that they who commit an offence with civil disobedience must still act with restraint, and will plead guilty to vouch for the sincerity of their beliefs.
The full list of protesters sentenced to jail over the Northeast New Territories demonstrations include: Leung Hiu-yeung, Raphael Wong Ho-ming, Lau Kwok-leung, Leung Wing-lai, Ivan Lam Long-yin, Chu Wai-chung, Willis Ho Kit-wang, Kole Chow Koot-yin, Yim Man-wa, Billy Chiu Hin-chung, Kwok Yiu-cheong, Wong Kan-yuen and Chan Pak-shan.
The 13 activists’ re-sentencing was closely followed by the jailing of three pro-democracy activsts– Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow – over their participation in the Civic Square clashes that led to the 79-day Umbrella Movement.