Trio es­cape jail time over ral­lies

The Myanmar Times - - World -

THREE lead­ers of the “Um­brella Revo­lu­tion” in Hong Kong avoided jail yes­ter­day over 2014 pro-democ­racy protests as a court said po­lit­i­cal ten­sion would not sway its judge­ment, in a city di­vided by Bei­jing’s tight­en­ing grip.

The young cam­paign­ers – Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow – were charged over a protest in Septem­ber 2014 which saw stu­dents climb over a fence into the gov­ern­ment com­plex, known as Civic Square.

They were call­ing for fully free lead­er­ship elec­tions for the semi­au­tonomous city and their ar­rests at the time sparked wider ral­lies.

Those ral­lies ex­ploded two days later when po­lice fired tear gas on the crowds, trig­ger­ing mass demon­stra­tions that brought parts of the city to a stand­still for more than two months.

The um­brel­las which protesters used to de­fend them­selves from pep­per spray and tear gas gave the move­ment its name.

Ten­sions have re­mained high since the ral­lies ended with­out con­ces­sions from Bei­jing on po­lit­i­cal re­form, split­ting so­ci­ety into those who want to fight for greater au­ton­omy and those who think there is lit­tle to gain.

Mag­is­trate June Che­ung said it would be unfair if she were in­flu­enced by the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere into hand­ing down a “de­ter­rent sen­tence”.

“The court believes the case is dif­fer­ent from an or­di­nary crim­i­nal case. I ac­cept they were gen­uinely ex­press­ing their views,” Ms Che­ung said in sen­tenc­ing at Eastern Mag­is­trates’ Court.

Ms Che­ung added the three had no prior con­vic­tions, and were con­cerned about so­cial is­sues and pas­sion­ate about pol­i­tics.

Mr Wong, 19, and Mr Chow, 25, had been charged with tak­ing part in an un­law­ful as­sem­bly at Civic Square, while Mr Law, 23, was charged with in­cit­ing oth­ers to take part in the ral­lies.

They were fac­ing pos­si­ble twoyear jail terms but Mr Wong and Mr Law were given com­mu­nity ser­vice in­stead.

Mr Chow re­ceived a three-week sen­tence, sus­pended for a year – he could not com­plete com­mu­nity ser­vice be­cause he would be study­ing in the UK. He will not serve jail time un­less he of­fends in the com­ing year.

The de­fen­dants praised Ms Che­ung for her le­niency.

“The court has taken the view that the Um­brella Move­ment and en­ter­ing Civic Square was not for per­sonal gain but pub­lic good,” Mr Wong said.

Mr Law added that it showed the three had been act­ing for “jus­tice, ben­e­fits of so­ci­ety and peo­ple’s civil lib­er­ties”.

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