Top court frees three Occupy activists

Top court frees three Occupy activists

Kerry Wise
February 8, 2018

Pro-democracy activists (from left) Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law pose outside the Court of Final Appeal before a verdict on their appeal in Hong Kong February 6, 2018.

The court quashed the increased sentences Tuesday finding that the Court of Appeal exceeded its authority in ascribing "a different weight to a factor properly taken into account by the sentencing judge in arriving at a sentence that is otherwise within the range of sentences appropriate for the offence".

Hong Kong's top court ruled on Tuesday that the three student leaders convicted for their roles in a protest that led to the pro-democracy Occupy Movement in 2014 should not be jailed, overturning the prison sentences given to them a year ago.

Wong, Law, 24, and Chow, 27, had already served about two months of their sentences before they were bailed for their appeal. In August, however, the government challenged the non-custodial punishments and an appeal court sent the three to jail for six to eight months. However, it also said this ruling should not be retrospective and therefore could not be applied to the three activists.

While the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) endorsed a higher standard for public order offenses put forward by the Court of Appeal, it said the judges were wrong to apply that standard retroactively to Wong, Law and Chow's case.

The protest sparked the "Umbrella movement," which pushed for full democracy in Hong Kong and brought parts of the city to a standstill for three months.

US gymnastics coach facing criminal probe
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Wong and Law's political party Demosisto wants self-determination for the city.

Amnesty International's Hong Kong director, Mabel Au, said in a statement that the court had "corrected an injustice" but added that "all politically motivated prosecutions aimed at silencing those promoting democracy in Hong Kong must be dropped".

They stressed, however, that Hong Kong was a law-abiding society and that "future offenders involved in large-scale unlawful assemblies involving violence" will be subject to stricter guidelines laid down by the Court of Appeal.

"According to the judgement, maybe more activists will be locked up", said Wong outside court after the ruling. He's now out on bail appealing a separate conviction, for contempt of court, also stemming from the 2014 protests.

The protests called for fully free leadership elections to replace a system where the city's chief executive is selected by a pro-Beijing committee, but failed to win any concessions.

Last month the government banned high-profile democracy activist Agnes Chow from running for the legislature in what activists said was another sign political debate was being shut down.

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