On August 17, a Hong Kong appeals court sentenced student democracy activists Joshua Wong, Alex Chow, and Nathan Law to six to eight months imprisonment. The three had earlier been convicted of crimes related to unlawful assembly during a demonstration in 2014 when they had crossed a police barrier, but the lower court had sentenced them only to community service and a suspended jail sentence, arguing that their breach had been a form of political expression. But even in Hong Kong, a city which has enjoyed political freedoms absent elsewhere in China, it was the preservation of “public order” the court chose to emphasize. “To disrupt public order and public peace in the name of free exercise of powers,” said court Vice President Wally Yeung Chun-kuen, “will cause our society to descend into chaos.” The new sentence, which the three plan to appeal, also carries a five-year prohibition on running for elected office in Hong Kong. Progressive Lawyers Group member Alvin Y.H. Cheung was interviewed by ChinaFile about the jailed activists.
Hong Kong’s democracy movement has suffered the latest setback in what has been a punishing year after three of its most influential young leaders were jailed for their roles in a protest at the start of a 79-day anti-government occupation known as the umbrella movement. “It smacks of political imprisonment, plain and simple,” said Jason Ng, a member of the Progressive Lawyers Group and the author of Umbrellas in Bloom, a book about Hong Kong’s youth protest movement.
Nearly three years ago, several Hong Kong youth with hopes of greater democracy led a downtown protest that ballooned into thousands and lasted for 79 days. Now, they’re going to jail. “It felt like a punch in the stomach,” said Jason Y. Ng, a lawyer, a member of the Progressive Lawyers Group and personal friend of Wong’s, who has written a book about the Umbrella Movement.