Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement leaders jailed

HONG KONG: Joshua Wong and two other young leaders of Hong Kong’s huge Umbrella Movement rallies were jailed on Thursday for their role in the 2014 protests, dealing a fresh blow to the campaign for political reform.
The sentences handed down by the city’s Court of Appeal came as fears grow that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city and that rule of law is being compromised.
Wong, who became the face of the mass protests while still a teenager, as well as Nathan Law and Alex Chow were given terms of six months, eight months and seven months respectively after the court upped their previous non-custodial sentences.
“The court has a responsibility to send out a clear message to society, that in activities such as rallies, marches and protests, when rights are freely exercised, participants must abide by the law,” the judgement said.
Anyone who receives a jail term of more than three months is barred from running for Hong Kong’s partially directly elected parliament for five years.
Wong turns 21 in October which would have made him eligible to run for lawmaker, something he had said he wanted to do. As he was led away by security, Wong shouted: “Hong Kong people, don’t give up!”.
Law, 24, was voted in as a legislator by the public last year, winning 50,000 votes in what was seen as a victory for the democracy movement.
But he was disqualified last month along with three other pro-democracy lawmakers for inserting protests into their oaths of office. That decision came after an unprecedented intervention from Beijing demanding oaths are “solemn and sincere”.
Beijing has become increasingly incensed at the emergence of independence campaigners calling for Hong Kong to split completely from China, a response to the failure of the Umbrella Movement to win reform.
Chinese President Xi Jinping warned any challenge to Beijing’s control over Hong Kong crossed a “red line” when he visited the city in July to mark 20 years since it was handed back to China by Britain.
Wong and Law’s party Demosisto said after the sentencing that Xi’s rise had led to growing restrictions on civil rights in Hong Kong.
But pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip called the terms “reasonable and appropriate” as the Umbrella Movement protests had “seriously undermined Hong Kong’s law and order and stability”.
The Umbrella trio were found guilty last year on unlawful assembly charges for storming a fenced-off government forecourt known as “Civic Square” as part of a protest calling for fully free leadership elections in September 2014.
Their arrests sparked wider rallies which exploded two days later when police fired tear gas on the crowds, triggering mass demonstrations that brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for more than two months in an unprecedented challenge to Beijing.
Wong and Law received community sentences and Chow a three-week suspended sentence at magistrates’ court last August over the Civic Square protest.
But Hong Kong’s justice department then sought to increase those terms, with prosecutors arguing they should receive harsher punishment. — AFP