The Department of Justice has appealed against the sentencing of 13 protesters who stormed the Legislative Council to oppose the development of Northeast New Territories in 2014, saying that community service punishment was “too light.”

The defendants include League of Social Democrats (LSD) Vice-Chairman Raphael Wong, Land Justice League convener Willis Ho and activist Billy Chiu. Last February, the court heard that demonstrators  had broke apart security barriers and used bamboo sticks to force open glass doors at the Legislative Council Complex during the June 2014 protest. Convicted of unlawful assembly, the protesters were each sentenced to serve between 80 and 150 hours of community service.

northeast new territories development protest court
Protesters outside the High Court. Photo: InMedia.

On Monday, the prosecution said that the incident had been extremely serious, and that the scale of the unlawful assembly demonstrated protesters’ disregard of the law and challenged public order, according to RTHK. The prosecution also said that only a sentence of jail time, ordered by the court to be served immediately, would be appropriate.

Last week, Leung Hiu-yeung, who was one of the 13 protesters, was granted leave by Hong Kong’s top court to appeal his conviction for obstructing a Legislative Council officer during the demonstration. On Monday, the justice department requested for a suspension of the handling of Leung’s appeal until its own appeal over the charge of unlawful assembly had been processed. The court said that it would consider the proposal.

See also: Hong Kong’s top court to hear appeal by protester convicted of obstructing officer at legislature

raphael wong lsd
Raphael Wong. Photo: League of Social Democrats/Facebook.

Before the trial, Wong, League of Social Democrats Chairman Avery Ng, and around 20 supporters chanted slogans outside the High Court. Wong said that the protesters had already fulfilled their community service sentences, but that the justice department wanted the court to hand them a jail sentence. Wong said that he believed that the government wanted to silence dissent, and “defeat them [the protesters] in one fell swoop.”

Au Hei-man, a community member of Mapopo Community Farm – part of which is set to be repossessed by Henderson Land Development Company Limited – said that the development projects were “encroaching day by day.” She said that she was grateful for the protesters’ contributions, and that they were “kind and brave, good people,” In-Media reported.

In handing down the community service sentence in 2016, magistrate Jason Wan had said that he could see the protesters were trying to fight for residents’ rights and to stop their homes from being destroyed before the implementation of the development policy.

See also: Community service for 13 New Territories development protesters who stormed LegCo building

A village in the northeastern New Territories. File Photo: InMedia.

Earlier this year, the North District Council passed a non-binding motion asking the government to suspend the development project.

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.