The High Court has stated its reasons for rejecting the appeals of three men who stormed the Legislative Council building during the pro-democracy Occupy protests in 2014.

While their actions during the event cannot be legally defined as a “riot”, they are “riotous” nonetheless, Judge Judianna Barnes Wai-ling said in court on Thursday, Apple Daily reported.

legco storming occupy
The three defendants, Tai Chi-shing (left), Shek Ka-fai (middle) and Cheung Chi-pong (right). File remix.

The three stormed the building because of a false rumour that LegCo was about to discuss “Internet Article 23” on November 19, 2014, according to Apple Daily. They threw items such as bricks and barricades against the glass doors.

Judge Barnes said that, despite clarifications from a lawmaker on the same day that the LegCo was not discussing “Internet Article 23”, the three defendants did not halt their actions. As a result, Barnes said that the court must send a clear message to the public that citizens have the freedom of expression and assembly but must abide by law and order.

legco storming occupy
A police officer examines the damage of the property.

The three men were found guilty of property damage and unlawful assembly in July 2015, and were originally given a sentence of 150 hours of community service each.

Prosecutors, the Department of Justice, appealed for the court to review the sentence, which was changed to three months of imprisonment in August 2015. The three defendants appealed against the sentence. Their appeal was rejected on February 24, 2016, and they began their sentence on the same day.

Dubbed “Internet Article 23”, the copyright amendment bill proposed by the government in 2014 led to widespread fears that internet freedoms would be curbed. Pan-democratic lawmakers tried to delay the bill by filibustering. The bill was shelved last week.

Hermina is a Hong Kong writer and journalist. She graduated with a degree in politics from Cambridge, and is interested in international affairs, particularly those related to China, the EU and the Middle East. She also enjoys political satire.