Hong Kong protest leaders face jail as China tensions rise
Rights groups have criticized the conviction of three student leaders, in the highest-profile court case since the pro-democracy protests of 2014.world Updated: Aug 15, 2016 09:20 IST
Three leaders of Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Revolution” face possible jail sentences Monday over protests that sparked massive rallies in 2014, as fears grow that Beijing is closing its grip on the city.
Their conviction last month in the highest profile court case to emerge from the pro-democracy movement was slammed by rights group Amnesty International, which described it as an intimidation tactic and a “chilling warning” to the city’s activists.
All three, including the teenage face of the Umbrella Revolution Joshua Wong, could be jailed for up to two years when they appear for sentencing at district court on Monday morning.
They were convicted for their part in a small protest that saw students climb over a fence into the government complex forecourt, known as Civic Square, on September 26, 2014.
After their arrests, more protesters began to gather. The rallies then exploded on September 28 when police fired tear gas on the crowds.
The umbrellas used by protesters to protect themselves from tear gas and pepper spray gave the movement its name.
Thousands of demonstrators brought parts of the city to a standstill for over following two months, but failed to win concessions on political reform from Beijing.
Wong, 19, was convicted in July for taking part in an unlawful assembly over the Civic Square protest, as was fellow student activist Alex Chow, 25.
Protest leader Nathan Law, 23, was convicted for inciting others to take part.
All three are currently on bail.
Wong has always said the various protest-related charges against him and others are political persecution.
Since the failure of the mass rallies to win reform, a growing number of young activists have begun calling for Hong Kong to break entirely from Beijing.
Wong and Law recently founded a new political party, Demosisto, campaigning for self-determination for the city.
They have been in and out of court hearings for the past year after being charged with offences linked to various protest actions.
Both were acquitted in June over a separate anti-China rally in the summer of 2014.
Law is a candidate for the city’s upcoming legislative council election, but will not be able to stand if his prison sentence is more than three months.
In another high-profile case, activist Ken Tsang of Civic Party was sentenced to five weeks in prison in May after he was found guilty of assaulting and resisting officers during the rallies. He is currently on bail pending an appeal.
Hong Kong was returned to China by Britain in 1997 with its freedoms are guaranteed for 50 years, but there are growing concerns that Beijing is no longer adhering to the agreement.