Hong Kong’s top court has granted leave to 13 protesters involved in clashes outside the Legislative Council over the northeast New Territories development plans.

Court of Final Appeal Judge Justice Geoffrey Ma cleared the way for the 13 to argue that they suffered “substantial and grave injustice” as a result of the appeal court departing from regular sentencing guidelines at the time.

Two other activists were further granted permission to argue that the Court of Appeal failed to consider that they were juvenile offenders. However, other grounds for appeal were rejected as they were already “fully answered” in a case concerning democracy activist Joshua Wong, or because they lacked sufficient merit.

northeast new territories
Photo: Karen Cheung/HKFP.

The appeal hearing has been scheduled for September 7. Bail is to be extended on the same terms to all applicants except the League of Social Democrats’ Raphael Wong, who is currently serving a jail sentence for a separate case relating to the 2014 Umbrella Movement demonstrations.

The 2014 land development clashes were triggered amid Legislative Council debates over preliminary funding for a controversial development plan. The proposal for the northeast New Territories would have displaced villagers from their homes in order to make way for new town projects.

The activists were initially handed community service orders and completed their sentences, but the Department of Justice lodged a sentence review, seeking harsher punishment. The Court of Appeal sentenced them to jail last August.

On Wednesday, Senior Counsel Martin Lee told the court to refer to the case concerning Joshua Wong, which he said was “totally related” to the present case, even if the facts and degree of violence involved differed. In that case, Wong along with Nathan Law and Alex Chow were also jailed by the appeal court despite serving their community sentences over their participation in Civic Square clashes in 2014.

But the top court later released the trio, saying that the magistrate’s initial community service sentence was not “manifestly inadequate” to warrant a sentence review. The Court of Appeal, however, was entitled to give sentence guidelines for future cases involving violence at large-scale unlawful assemblies.

Raphael Wong
Raphael Wong. File Photo: In-Media.

The other 12 protesters include: Lau Kwok-leung, Lam Long-yin, Chiu Hin-chung, Kwok Yiu-cheong, Wong Kan-yuen, Willis Ho Kit-wang, Kole Chow Koot-yin, Leung Hiu-yeung, Leung Wing-lai, Chu Wai-chung, Yim Man-wa, and Chan Pak-shan.

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.