Seven pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong have been sentenced to up to 12 months in prison, after they pleaded guilty to offences linked to an unauthorised protest last year against the newly-imposed national security law.

The District Court on Saturday imposed jail terms on activists Figo Chan, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung and Eddie Chu, who were already behind bars for other protest-related offences. The other democrats jailed were former Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai, former district councillor Chui Chi-kin and League of Social Democrats (LSD) members Tsang Kin-shing and Tang Sai-lai.

(From left to right) League of Social Democrats members Tang Sai-lai, Tsang Kin-shing and Chan Po-ying, wife of Leung Kwok-hung, speak to the press on October 16, 2021 ahead of the sentencing of an unauthorised assembly on Hong Kong’s handover anniversary in 2020. Photo: League of Social Democrats, via Facebook.

They admitted inciting others to participate in, organising and knowingly taking part in a banned protest on July 1 last year, when Hong Kong marked 23 years since its return to China. On that day, dozens of protesters marched in Wan Chai and Causeway Bay in defiance of a police ban, to demonstrate opposition to the sweeping national security law that had been enacted the day before on Beijing’s orders.

According to local media, District Judge Douglas Yau said Chan, Tsang, Chui and Wu incited others to take part in the protest by speaking to the press a day before outside the Court of Final Appeal. Their statements were widely reported, the judge remarked, and the incitement was “direct to all Hong Kong people.”

Figo Chan. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Yau said that while the number of people taking part was small and there were only scattered instances of arson and clashes, a custodial punishment was necessary to have a deterrent effect.

DefendantJail term over July 1 unauthorised assembly Total jail term
Figo Chan12 months21 months (Three months added to his previous jail sentences)
Tsang Kin-shing 10 months 10 months
Chui Chi-kin Six monthsSix months
Wu Chi-wai10 months 10 months
Eddie ChuSix monthsEight months (Two months added to his previous jail sentences)
Leung Kwok-hungEight months 23 months (One month added to his previous jail sentences)
Tang Sai-laiSix months Six months

Chan, former convenor of the now-dissolved protest coalition Civil Human Rights Front, was handed the heaviest sentence of a year behind bars. Yau described him as playing a leading role in the case, saying he had spoken multiple times at the press conference.

Three months of the latest sentence will be added to his sentences from previous convictions, meaning he will now serve a total of 21 months.

Leung saw his total time behind bars totalling 23 months after Yau ordered one month of his eight-month prison term to be served consecutively to his previous sentences. Chu faced an additional two months in jail, with his total prison term being eight months.

Hong Kong protesters march with a banner that read “I really fucking love Hong Kong” on July 1, 2020. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Before the sentencing, LSD members Tsang, Tang and Leung’s wife Chan Po-ying protested against what they saw as political prosecution. “Peaceful protest is not a crime,” they chanted.

The eighth defendant in the case, former Eastern district councillor Lancelot Chan, had pleaded not guilty to knowingly taking part in the unauthorised assembly. He is set to stand trial in June next year.

Leung, Chu, Wu and Chui have been separately charged under the Beijing-imposed security legislation over an unofficial legislative primary election in July 2020. They are among dozens of democrats who have been detained for over seven months pending trial for conspiracy to commit subversion.

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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.