A Hong Kong court yesterday sentenced two former lawmakers to four weeks in jail for unlawful assembly inside the Legislative Council while they were still lawmakers, further sapping the energy of political activists in the territory.
Sixtus “Baggio” Leung (梁頌恆), 31, and Yau Wai-ching (游蕙禎), 26, of the Youngspiration party, along with three assistants, were convicted of the unlawful assembly charge last month for attempting to barge into a room and scuffling with security guards at the council in 2016.
Magistrate Wong Sze-lai (王詩麗)) said during sentencing at the Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts that their actions had “directly damaged the legislature’s integrity,” Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) reported.
The pair first said they would appeal, but Yau later changed her mind, RTHK said, adding that two assistants also chose not to appeal.
Leung and another assistant were expected to be released on bail later yesterday.
Former British secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs Malcolm Rifkind called the prison sentence “deeply disturbing,” according to a news release by the London-based NGO Hong Kong Watch.
It also cited crossbench peer David Alton calling the sentence “a major over-reaction.”
“Imagine if a member of parliament were sent to jail for staging a protest inside parliament,” he said.
The election of Yau and Leung two years ago marked a high for the youth-led movement that championed local issues, though some activists had advocated secession from China.
During the pro-democracy “Umbrella Movement” protests in 2014, tens of thousands of demonstrators occupied major highways for over two months demanding full democracy.
Leung and Yau lost much public support after they insulted China during their swearing-in.
The Hong Kong government accused them of making invalid oaths, and a court disqualified them from their posts in 2016.
Hong Kong laws define unlawful assembly as one where three or more people conduct themselves in a “disorderly, intimidating, insulting or provocative manner” likely to cause others to reasonably fear “a breach of the peace.”
It is “immaterial” if the original assembly was lawful if the people assembled ended up behaving in such a manner, the law states.
The maximum jail term for a conviction is five years imprisonment.
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