Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Occupy Trio Walk Free, but with Caveat

Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law outside the Court of Final Appeal
Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang may have walked free from the Court of Final Appeal today, but the future of the democratic movement in Hong Kong is uncertain.

Their prison sentences ranging from six to eight months for storming Civic Square days before the Umbrella Movement erupted in late September 2014 were thrown out by Hong Kong's highest court, but there is a serious caveat.

The five judges also ruled that there should be new sentencing guidelines laid down by the Court of Appeal last August to impose tougher punishments in cases of unlawful assembly involving violence.

September 26 the trio and others stormed Civic Square
So while civil disobedience may be allowed in Hong Kong, any violence attached to it would result in criminal punishment because it would not be considered civil disobedience anymore.

Basically, it reiterates that what happened from September to December 2014 would not be considered civil disobedience because there was violence.

When the trio appeared outside the court, Wong described the judgment as "sugar-coated harsh punishment".

"It's not a time for celebration," Wong said. "In the future... maybe more and more activists will be locked up because of this harsh judgment."

Law was also not pleased. "Although our appeal was allowed, Hong Kong's democratic movement has lost a battle," he said.

The storming of Civic Square led to the 79-day Occupy protest
Where does this leave Hong Kong's ongoing push for democracy?

Participants in marches for democracy must take extra care in ensuring things don't get out of hand, otherwise arrests possibly leading to convictions will be made. While we are pleased that the right to civil disobedience is defended, there are strings attached.

This makes the way forward perilous but the push towards democracy needs to keep going. At least we know it must be non-violent. But how violent is violent? That was not clearly defined...

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