Amnesty International has slammed the guilty verdicts handed down to three pro-democracy student activists as the “latest blow for freedom of expression” in Hong Kong.

The human rights NGO said that, following the court ruling on Thursday, the authorities’ prosecution of the student leaders “sends a chilling warning for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the city.”

The three student leaders. Photo: 香港眾志 Demosistō via Facebook.

Activists Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Alex Chow Yong-kang have been found guilty of taking part in an unlawful assembly, after they stormed Admiralty’s Civic Square in September 2014, kickstarting the pro-democracy Occupy protests. Nathan Law Kwun-chung was found guilty of inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly, whilst Wong was acquitted of the same charge.

“The prosecution of student leaders on vague charges smacks of political payback by the authorities,” said Mabel Au, Director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, condemning the continued persecution of prominent figures related to the protests.

Occupy protest one year anniversary in Admiralty. Photo: HKFP.

Amnesty International also said that provisions in the Public Order Ordinance, which the charges were based on, were “vague” and had been repeatedly criticised by the UN Human Rights Committee for failing to meet international human rights law and standards of peaceful assembly rights.

“The authorities must stop using vague laws in an attempt to intimidate people from exercising their right to peaceful assembly,” said Au. “Prosecutions aimed at shutting down participation in peaceful protests must be dropped.”

Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch, also called the ruling a “bogus verdict” whereby the student activists were convicted under an “archaic colonial law.”

Sentences for the three student leaders will be handed down on August 15 pending a report from probation officers. Law has submitted his nomination form to run in the Legislative Council election in September as a member of Demosistō – a party he formed with Wong. If given a prison sentence of more than three months, he will be disqualified from running, according to the Legislative Council Ordinance.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.