Former lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung has denounced a court’s sentence handed down to localist Edward Leung as a “political judgment and retribution,” saying it related to an effort by ex-chief executive Leung Chun-ying to suppress Hong Kong’s localist movement.
Speaking alongside League of Social Democrats Chair Avery Ng, Leung Kwok-hung said that the sentence was inconsistent with local precedents such as the 1967 riots where defendants were given lighter sentences.
On Monday, Edward Leung was sentenced to six years in jail for rioting and assaulting a police officer. He was charged over his involvement in the Mong Kok unrest, which broke out over Lunar New Year in 2016 when authorities attempted to clear street hawkers.
“If we look at local cases, the 1967 riots lasted eight months, people died, and there were bombs. According to these standards it is clear that Leung’s sentencing was political retribution,” Leung said.
“[Former chief executive] Leung Chun-ying said the Mong Kok unrest was a riot and labelled the people involved as rioters. With this kind of high-profile treatment, the case has become a matter of politics rather than of criminal law.”
Madam Justice Anthea Pang on Monday rejected considering the political and social background of the incident as a mitigation factor and said, citing case law, that the court was not concerned with political motives but the degree of violence and disruption of order.
Former lawmaker Alan Leong, a senior counsel, said that the judge should consider such factors.
“A six-year jail term was rare among convicts of the 1967 riots. When the people holding power and vested interests completely lack empathy but suppress political ideals using draconian laws, the outcome is usually worse,” he said.
Lawmaker Claudia Mo said she was “shocked” by the sentence, and it made her “lose faith in Hong Kong’s legal system.” In an emotional statement, she said that Leung did the “wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time” and the sentence was too long and harsh.
“As a mother, I would have persuaded him not to come back from the US; But as a Hongkonger, I could only thank him for his responsibility,” She added that she planned to visit Leung in prison, and encouraged members of the public to write to him.
Singer Denise Ho posted a photo of Leung and said that the case was “more than political persecution.”
“It is to put young people to hell and never come back,” she said. “What can we say facing a government that only answers to the country’s missions and not its conscience?”
Former lawmaker Nathan Law, of the pro-democracy Demosisto party, tweeted that the sentence was “way too harsh.”
Way too harsh and unjust sentencing. Compare to those committed real riot in 1967, which caused tens of people dying, most of them were sentenced less than 2 years. Ed is getting 6….. #unjust pic.twitter.com/bCVs9PzAJD
— Nathan Law 羅冠聰 (@nathanlawkc) June 11, 2018
Chief Inspector Terrence Tse of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau said that the sentence reflects the gravity of the offences involved, and that the OCTB will continue to actively investigate the Mongkok unrest.
“The judge has clearly stated that the defendant has committed a very serious offence. The defendant was not acting in isolation, but committed the offence in an organised and premeditated way. The court also pointed out that no matter how well the motive was, any sort of violence would not be tolerated,” Tse said.
When asked to respond to accusations of political persecution, Tse said the police and the Department of Justice made their decisions based on evidence.
Tse said that 91 people have been arrested in relation to the protests and 28 have been convicted. Three fled Hong Kong while awaiting trial.