Hong Kong activists, ex-legislators jailed over 2019 protest

Court sentences seven activists and former legislators to jail over an unauthorised rally in October 2019.

Anti-government demonstrators attend a protest march in Hong Kong, China, October 20, 2019 [File: Umit Bektas/ Reuters]

Seven democracy activists and former legislators in Hong Kong have been sentenced to jail for their role in an unauthorised assembly at the height of anti-government protests in 2019.

The activists sentenced on Wednesday included Figo Chan, a former convener of the now-disbanded Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF); Raphael Wong and Avery Ng of the League of Social Democrats political party; and former legislators Cyd Ho, Yeung Sum, Albert Ho and Leung Kwok-hung, who is known in Hong Kong as “Long Hair”.

Their sentences ranged from 11 to 16 months.

They had pleaded guilty to charges, including organising and inciting others to take part in the illegal assembly on October 20, 2019, when tens of thousands took to the streets and police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse them.

Apart from Wong, the other defendants were all serving jail time in relation to other illegal assembly cases.

Riot police officers walk down a street during an anti-government protest in Hong Kong, China, October 20, 2019 [File: Ammar Awad/ Reuters]
Anti-government demonstrators react amid tear gas during a protest march in Hong Kong, China October 20, 2019 [Tyrone Siu/ Reuters]

Judge Amanda Woodcock told the District Court that while the city’s mini-constitution “guarantees freedom of assembly, procession and demonstration,” those rights are “not absolute”.

“Restrictions were applied in the interests of public safety, public order and the protection of others’ rights and freedoms,” she said, referring to the rally on October 20, 2019.

The judge said the six defendants who are already in jail will serve their new sentences concurrently with the terms they are already serving.

The sentences are the latest to be handed down in connection with the sometimes violent demonstrations that roiled the semi-autonomous territory in 2019.

The demonstrations were triggered by Beijing’s tightening control over the former British colony, which was promised broad freedoms when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Beijing imposed a national security law last year that critics say is aimed at stamping out dissent, an assertion authorities in mainland China and Hong Kong reject.

Some democracy campaigners said the space for opposition voices was “shrinking”.

“We hope everyone understands that this is political prosecution,” Chan Po-ying, the chairwoman of the League of Social Democrats, said outside the court.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies