Friday 19 January 2018

Hong Kong student leaders guilty in protest trial

Joshua Wong shouts slogans outside a magistrates' court in Hong Kong (AP)
Joshua Wong shouts slogans outside a magistrates' court in Hong Kong (AP)

A Hong Kong court found teenage protest leader Joshua Wong guilty of taking part in an illegal rally that sparked massive pro-democracy demonstrations two years ago.

Wong, 19, tweeted that he "was found guilty of the charge of participating unlawful assembly by court of Hong Kong".

A magistrate handed down the verdict for Wong and two other young student leaders, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, on Thursday, following a trial earlier this year.

Chow was convicted of the same charge while Law was found guilty of inciting others to join an illegal assembly, according to local media reports.

The three face up to two years in prison and will be sentenced on August 15 according to Wong, who became globally famous for his role in leading the protests, which marked the former British colony's most tumultuous period in decades.

The three were charged with storming into a courtyard dubbed Civic Square beside the Hong Kong government complex on September 26 2014 to protest against Beijing's decision to restrict elections for the city's leader.

Huge crowds of demonstrators turned out to demand their release after they were detained by police, who responded two days later with volleys of tear gas.

The move backfired, driving even more protesters to take to the streets, where they remained for 79 days to press their demands for greater democracy.

Wong told reporters after the verdict: "We might need to go into prison. However, no matter what is the penalty or the price that we need to pay, we will still continue to fight against suppression from the government.

"Facing the largest communist regime in the world, it's a long-term battle for us to fight for democracy."

It is the first conviction for Wong, who has been involved in several other court cases this year.

Last month he was acquitted of obstruction charges stemming from a separate anti-China protest earlier in 2014. He is also involved in a contempt case still before the courts.

Amnesty International attacked Hong Kong's Public Order Ordinance, on which the prosecution based its case, noting it has been criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Committee for not meeting international standards on the right of peaceful assembly.

"The prosecution of student leaders on vague charges smacks of political payback by the authorities," said Mabel Au, the group's Hong Kong director.


Press Association

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