Hong Kong protest coalition leader Figo Chan and ex-lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung have been handed two 18-month jail terms over a banned protest on China National Day in 2019. The sentences are to be served concurrently.

District Court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The four received 18 months for inciting people to participate in an unauthorised assembly and 18 months for organising an unlawful assembly.

In delivering her verdict, District Court judge Amanda Woodcock said the case called for a “deterrent and punitive” sentence as this was “necessary in maintaining public order.” She said while the Hong Kong Bill of Rights and the Basic Law guarantees the right of assembly, such a freedom was “not absolute.”

Judge Amanda Woodcock. File Photo: Judiciary.

National Day in 2019 saw widespread protests and unrest during months-long demonstrations against an ill-fated China extradition law. Police fired live rounds and deployed tear gas, whilst protesters threw petrol bombs and set fire to barricades.

Top democrats jailed

Also sentenced over organising the protest were ex-Democratic Party chair Yeung Sum and ex-lawmaker Cyd Ho, who received 14 months jail. Ex-lawmaker Sin Chung-kai was handed 14 months jail with two years suspended owing to his “passive role” in organising the demonstration.

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai was handed 14 months jail for his organising role. Activist Avery Ng and Richard Tsoi of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China were both given 14 months in prison for organising the protest and nine months for taking part. Tsoi’s sentence was suspended for two years, whilst Ng will serve 14 months and 14 days in jail owing to an active suspended sentence.

Jimmy Lai. File photo: Studio Incendo.

The 10 democracy figures pleaded guilty last week to organising the protest, where thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in defiance of a police ban. Chan, Lee, Leung and Albert Ho also accepted responsibility for inciting others to take part in the demonstration, while Ng and Tsoi admitted they knowingly took part in the unauthorised assembly.

Woodcock said that, while the four defendants found guilty of the incitement charge had called for a peaceful procession, it was not realistic considering the “volatile situation” during the 2019 unrest.

The sentences in full – click to view.

DefendantJail term (Incitement)Jail term (Organising)Jail term (Partaking)Suspended?Total to be served
D1: Figo Chan18 months.18 months.n/a.No.18 months (served concurrently).
D2: Lee Cheuk-yan*18 months.18 months.n/a.No.18 months.
D3: Leung Kwok-hung*18 months.18 months.n/a.No.18 months.
D4: Albert Ho #18 months.18 months.n/a.No.18 months.
D5: Yeung Sum #n/a.14 months.n/a.No.14 months.
D6: Cyd Ho*n/a.14 months.n/a.No.14 months.
D7: Avery Ngn/a.14 months.9 months.No.14 months & 14 days (Active suspended sentence, to be served consecutively).
D8: Jimmy Lai*n/a.14 months.n/a.No.14 months.
D9: Sin Chung-kain/a.14 months.n/a.Yes, for 24 months due to “very passive role” in organising protest.n/a
D10: Richard Tsoin/a.14 months.9 month.Yes, for 24 months.n/a

*Lee Cheuk-yan currently serving 14 months for Aug 18 & Aug 31 – Adding 6 months to total 20 months.
*Leung Kwok-hung currently serving 18 months for Aug 18 – Adding 4 months to total 22 months
*Cyd Ho is currently serving 8 months for Aug 18 – Adding 6 months, total 14 months.
*Jimmy Lai currently serving 14 months for Aug 18 & Aug 31 – Adding 6 months, total 20 months.
#Albert Ho was previously jailed for 12 months over Aug 18, suspended for 24 months.
#Yeung Sum was previously jailed for 8 months over Aug 31, suspended for 12 months.

“[B]ut how naïve and unrealistic was that considering what was happening on a daily basis was the opposite… This is not with hindsight. The risk was very real at that time,” she said.

Lee, Leung, Cyd Ho and Lai are already serving jail terms for unlawful protests in August 2019.

Outside court, Chan Po-ying, the wife of activist Leung Kwok-hung, told reporters that the punishment was “too heavy.”

Chan Po-ying – wife of Leung Kwok-hung – speaking outside the Wan Chai District Court after 10 democrats were sentenced on May 28, 2021. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

She said the jail term would create a “chilling effect” and said she would seek legal advice on whether or not to file an appeal.

Tiananmen anniversary

Before the sentencing, family and supporters of the democrats stood up and waved at the defendants and told them to “add oil.” Chan of the Civil Human Rights Front and Leung urged people to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. The police have objected to the annual candlelight vigil for the second year in a row, citing Covid-19 concerns.

“Commemorate June 4!,” Chan yelled, referring to the bloody crackdown on a student-led movement in Beijing in 1989.

Leung also chanted: “Never forget June 4!”

Appeals

Around two hours after receiving their suspended jail terms, veteran democrats Sin Chung-kai and Richard Tsoi walked out of the Wan Chai Law Courts Building.

Sin Chung-kai (left) and Richard Tsoi (right) leave the Wan Chai Law Courts Building on May 28, 2021 after receiving suspended jail terms over a banned protest on China’s National Day in 2019. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Tsoi told reporters that he thought the sentences were “extremely high,” and the legal teams of some of the defendants are considering filing an appeal, but the process may take a couple of months as other protest cases are involved.

“We observed that, especially in recent cases, the sentencing principles diverted a lot from the cases we heard years before,” Tsoi said.

Sin Chung-kai (left) and Richard Tsoi (right) leave the Wan Chai Law Courts Building on May 28, 2021 after receiving suspended jail terms over a banned protest on China’s National Day in 2019. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Sin said the recent verdicts and sentencing in protest cases involving high-profile democrats will become landmark cases and set a precedent for the forthcoming years.

“People must be aware of the consequences… the court has already changed,” he said.

Asked if he will take part in commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre this year, Tsoi said he will only respond to the Hong Kong Alliance’s way forward after the group meets with the appeal panel on Saturday morning.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.