Monday, 15 August 2016

Lenient Sentences for Trio

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow speak outside the court
Today Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang can thank their lucky stars today, escaping serious jail time after being convicted for their actions in storming Civic Square in the Hong Kong government headquarters on September 26, 2014, which two days later sparked the Umbrella Movement that lasted 79 days.

The trio were prepared for the worst, as their crimes, unlawful assembly and inciting others to join in unlawful assembly carried the maximum penalty of HK$5,000 and three years in jail.

Wong was handed 80 hours of community service for unlawful assembly, while Law received a sentence of 120 hours of community service for inciting others to join in unlawful assembly.

The three were part of the group that stormed Civic Square
However, Chow was sentenced to three weeks in jail suspended for a years so that he could study his Masters in the UK.

The community service sentence was a relief to Law, who is running for a seat in next month's Legislative Council elections. If he had to go to jail, that could have disqualified him from being a candidate.

It seems Magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan considered the motives and intentions behind the offence because the case was atypical from other criminal cases. She described the three activists as passionate and genuinely believing in their political ideals.

"If their actions did not originate from personal gain or intent to harm others, the court should not only consider their actions and the consequences, but also try to understand the motivations behind their offence by adopting a more lenient and understanding attitude," she said.

Cheung added a deterrent sentence would not be fair as their actions were relatively moderate compared to political events after the storming.

Two days later the police fired teargas at protesters
"The three defendants' actions were undoubtedly reckless, but they were not very violent nor intentional in harming security guards or police officers," she continued. "They only wanted to enter the east wing forecourt, the Civic Square with a historical and symbolic meaning that they genuinely believe in, to form a circle and chant slogans."

Outside the court, Chow said he found the ruling powerful and that it was a wake-up call for those in power and an important warning to the community that one must consider the motives and political stances behind Hong Kong's different voices.

On Twitter, Wong said: "I was given 80 hours of community service for unlawful assembly. I will not regret for [sic] my commitment in the Umbrella Movement."

Localists and pan-democrats must be relieved the three weren't severely punished, and perhaps the sentences demonstrate the authorities may have gone overboard in arresting anyone they thought was related to the Umbrella Movement in the hopes of jailing as many of them as possible as a lesson.

It'll be interesting to see how these sentences will affect the Demosisto vote on September 4 and if their support grows or wanes.

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