A Hong Kong court has sentenced seven pro-democracy figures – each to at least 11 months in prison – over charges linked to an unauthorised protest in October, 2019.
Former League of Social Democrats (LSD) chairs Raphael Wong, 32, and Avery Ng, 44, LSD members Figo Chan, 25, and “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, 65, veteran democrats Yeung Sum, 73, Albert Ho, 69, and Cyd Ho, 67, appeared in front of Judge Amanda Woodcock on Wednesday at the District Court to receive their sentencing.
Wong, Ng, Chan, Leung, Yeung, and Cyd Ho pleaded guilty earlier in August to organising a demonstration on October 20, 2019 in Kowloon.
|Suspended?||Total to be served|
|D1: Figo Chan||16 months||16 months||No||16 months|
|D2: Leung Kwok-hung||16 months||16 months||No||16 months|
|D3: Cyd Ho||14 months||14 months||No||14 months|
|D4: Albert Ho||16 months||n/a.||No||16 months|
|D5: Raphael Wong||n/a.||14 months||No||14 months|
|D6: Yeung Sum||n/a.||11 months||No||11 months|
|D7: Avery Ng||n/a.||12 months||No||12 months|
Chan, Leung, Cyd Ho, and Albert Ho also admitted another charge of conspiring to incite others to attend an unauthorised protest on October 19 that year, near the Court of Final Appeal in Central.
The sentences will be served concurrently to current jail terms, meaning only Wong heads to prison on Wednesday.
Woodcock said that, while the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of assembly, procession and demonstration in Hong Kong, “these rights are not absolute and are subject to restrictions ruled constitutional.”
“These freedoms are enjoyed subject to those restrictions and irrespective of a person’s politics,” said Woodcock. She added that the defendants political beliefs were irrelevant to sentencing.
When considering the sentencing for the incitement charge, Woodcock said that – while the defendants’ press conference on the day before the assembly “may have been an emphasis on maintaining peace in numbers despite or in spite of the presence of violent protesters” – the press conference “was essentially paying lip service to the expression, and the defendants “deliberately turned a blind eye to public order being jeopardised.”
The judge also said that the defendants were not “blameless” when it came to the violent acts occurred around the assembly: “When I consider the obstruction affecting so many, the violence and destruction captured on film in, and around, the route of the procession that took place during and long after the banner party declared the procession at an end, I find it unnecessary to define what violent acts or breaches of the peace can be attributed to participants of the procession.”
Speaking ahead of the sentencing, Chan Po-ying, chairperson of the LSD and Leung’s wife, said that the sentencing for charges related to unauthorised assemblies have become heavier, as – previously – defendants would receive a fine instead of prison terms.
Chan Po-ying, Tsang Kin-shing, and two other members from LSD held a banner that read “peaceful demonstrations are innocent, shame to political prosecution” outside the courthouse.
Meanwhile, Avery Ng of the league was also critical: “Actions that would have previously and sometimes rightly merited community service or fines just a few short years ago, now lead to the possibility of jail. Where once there was the space to disagree agreeably and debate ideas honestly. Now there is intolerance,” he wrote in press release. “Every day brings a new re-interpretation of the rules… The inevitable question arises: Whose security is being protected – the liberty of citizens? Or are these laws in fact protecting and securing the power of the already-powerful?”
“What kind of order are we seeking? Are these laws designed to uphold the rule of law, ensure freedom, a level playing field, and the chance of prosperity for all citizens? Or are they meant to usher in an era in which the government can rule unchallenged and unchecked?” Ng asked.