Tue, Jun 12, 2018 - Page 1 News List

HK court jails top independence activist for six years

AFP, HONG KONG

From left, defendants Wong Ka-kui, Lo Kin-man and Edward Leung are escorted yesterday inside a detention center before leaving for the High Court of Hong Kong for a sentencing hearing.

Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong’s leading independence activist was yesterday jailed for six years for his involvement in some of the territory’s worst protest violence for decades.

Edward Leung (梁天琦) was convicted last month of rioting during the 2016 running battles with police, when demonstrators hurled bricks torn up from pavements and set rubbish alight in Mong Kok district.

Handing down his jail term, High Court Judge Anthea Pang (彭寶琴) said Leung actively participated in the riots and described his actions as “wanton and vicious.”

The 27-year-old was already in custody after pleading guilty in January to a separate charge of assaulting a police officer during the clashes. He was sentenced to one year in jail on that count, with the two terms to be served concurrently.

The 2016 protest began as a seemingly innocuous rally to protect illegal hawkers from health inspectors, but it quickly morphed into an outpouring of anger against authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing.

At the forefront of the clashes were young “localists,” a term coined for radical groups promoting a split from China, which grew out of the failure of massive pro-democracy rallies in 2014 to win concessions from Beijing on political reform.

At the time, Leung was the head of Hong Kong Indigenous and a rising star on the political scene as the fledgling independence movement gathered momentum.

Pang said the protesters appeared to be “sincere, earnest, but wrong-headed people” with strong convictions.

They “will stop at nothing to impose those views” on society, she said, which Hong Kong cannot tolerate, as it poses “extremely great danger,” she said.

Two other protesters, Wong Ka-kui (黃家駒) and Lo Kin-man (盧建民), were sentenced alongside Leung to seven years and three-and-a-half years in prison respectively.

Veteran democracy advocate, former lawmaker and lawyer Alan Leong (梁家傑) criticized the judgement, saying that political reasons could not be admitted as a mitigating factor.

“How can you say that Edward Leung’s motives ... not for personal selfish gain, just to pursue his ideals... don’t matter? They must be relevant,” Leong said.

Leung’s jail term felt “way too heavy” especially when compared with the lesser sentences handed down during the 1967 anti-colonial riots that left 51 dead, he said.

At least 16 people have already been jailed over the clashes, with terms of up to four years and nine months for a man convicted of rioting and arson. None were known activists.

It was later dubbed the “fishball revolution” after one of the territory’s best-loved street snacks.

The defense said Leung, who pleaded not guilty, had no intention to riot, but wanted to “protect Hong Kong culture.”

Media reports said Leung testified his activism was inspired by the pro-democracy slogan “Without resistance, how is there change?”

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