Thirteen Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters were handed jail sentences of lengths between eight and 13 months on Tuesday, after they were convicted of unlawful assembly. This is after prosecutors earlier this week launched a bid for harsher punishments than what they were initially given from the court.
The 13, part of a wider group who in 2014 stormed the Legislative Council over a controversial government development project, were originally given 80 to 150 hours of community service by a lower court in 2016. In sentencing, Magistrate Jason Wan Siu-man took into account that the activists were speaking up for the ignored when they took part in a protest on June 13, 2014, against a development project in the New Territories. The project would have left many people homeless.
Prosecutors returned to the Court of Appeal on Monday to review the initial sentence, arguing that the crime was a serious one as the group had teamed up with others to storm the legislature, despite being aware of a police presence. They asked the court to jail the 13 as a deterrent.
A panel of three justices – Court of Appeal vice-president Wally Yeung Chun-kuen, and Justices of Appeal Derek Pang Wai-cheong and Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor – on Tuesday agreed with the prosecutors, saying that community service was “manifestly” inadequate.
The judges said they do not want to sentence young defendants with big dreams, but that there was a need to hand down a deterrent sentence for the sake of social order, and added that they would elaborate on their reasons later.
The 13 that have been sentenced are: Leung Hiu-yeung, Lau Kwok-leung, Leung Wing-lai, Ivan Lam Long-yin, Chu Wai-chung, Ho Kit-wang, Wong Kan-yuen, Kole Chow Koot-yin, Yim Man-wa, Billy Chiu Hin-chung, Kwok Yiu-cheong, Chan Pak-shan and Raphael Wong Ho-ming, the vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats.
All were sentenced to 13 months in jail except Wong Kan-yuen, who will serve eight months as he had pleaded guilty.
Most, if not all, of the defendants are expected to lodge appeals. Prosecutors were not able to locate Chiu for the hearing, and on Tuesday the judges issued an arrest warrant for him.