The High Court has handed four activists suspended sentences for criminal contempt after they failed to comply with an injunction to clear Mong Kok’s pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protest site in 2014.
Judge Andrew Chan gave Cheung Kai-yin, Ma Po-kwan, Wong Lai-wan and Yeung Ho-wah month-long jail sentences, suspended for 12 months. Each will also pay a fine of HK$10,000.
The four pleaded guilty during the hearings. They were among 20 who were found guilty of the charge last month.
In October 2014, a minibus company successfully applied for an injunction from the court to ban demonstrators from occupying streets in Kowloon. The police arrested those suspected to have violated the injunction after obstructing bailiffs at the scene in November that year.
In mitigation, lawyer Gerard McCoy – representing the four – argued that his clients did not use violence, were not the organisers of the incident, and that they merely misunderstood the content of the injunction.
In his judgement on Cheung Kai-yin, Chan wrote that he saw nothing to suggest she had played a great role int he protest: “Further, I accept… that Ms Cheung has since shifted her focus from politics to people’s livelihood. Letters have been placed before this court citing contributions made by Ms Cheung on environmental and community issues. Credit will also be given to her early plea and remorse.”
In sentencing the other three, he cited their limited roles, relatively young age, limited education, and clear records for granting suspended sentences.
Seven other activists, including Occupy leaders Joshua Wong and Lester Shum, had pleaded guilty before the four. Activist Raphael Wong and eight others pleaded not guilty. Their sentences will be handed down on December 7.
Joshua Wong and Raphael Wong were both recently released on bail on other charges which saw them imprisoned.
Raphael Wong said outside the court that the judge referred to a previous Occupy clearance case involving Alvin Cheng and Au Yuk-kwan in his ruling. Cheng was given a three-month jail term and Au a suspended sentence – similar to that of the four.
Wong said the judge ruled that the four had limited participation in the incident: “But for me, Lester Shum and Joshua Wong, we may be seen as having more participation in front of camera – so it may be more likely that we’ll be sent to jail.”
“My personal opinion is that we should not have been arrested. We have not disregarded the court. The real person who disregarded the court is [ex-leader] Leung Chun-ying who abused judiciary procedures to solve political problems,” he said.
“I am very confident that I will go to jail again,” he added. “I hope Hongkongers will not be scared of jail sentences, I hope they will not turn silent because of punishments.”
Shum also said he was prepared for jail: “This legal storm will make democracy activists even stronger, because we have more and more experience and resources to face political persecution.”
“Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, a former lawmaker, said he was the first to be arrested at the scene in the 2014 but he was not charged: “The Department of Justice is clearly persecuting young people.”
Joshua Wong said there has been “non-stop political persecution” by the government an urged the public to join a march on Sunday: “Regardless of the judgment, we will not bow down to [Justice Secretary] Rimsky Yuen.