Three jailed Occupy student leaders were given the go-ahead by Hong Kong’s top court on Monday to make themselves heard in a final appeal against their sentence.
The Court of Final Appeal allowed Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung - whom were granted bail last month - and Alex Chow Yang-kang to lodge their appeal after their original non-custodial sentences were replaced by jail terms amounting to months.
The appeal will be heard on January 16 next year. Chow was also granted bail.
Their lawyers will argue before top justices as to why the new jail terms are inappropriate.
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The appeal will have implications for the dynamic between criminal justice and constitutional rights in Hong Kong, as part of it will concern to what extent a protester, if convicted of a crime, can have his motive of civil disobedience taken into consideration when he is sentenced.
In giving the green light, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li said he and his fellow justices would like to hear the lawyers’ views on four issues, one of which in particular concerned civil disobedience and constitutional rights.
“To what extent a sentencing court shall take into account the motive of which they were convicted of, in particular in the case when the act is committed as a civil disobedience and in the act of exercising constitutional rights?” Ma asked.
The trio were convicted last year over their roles at a protest in the lead-up to the Occupy movement of 2014. Wong and Law were originally given community service orders, and Chow a suspended jail sentence.
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Prosecutors were unhappy with the non-custodial sentences and asked for a review of the penalties. This was granted by the Court of Appeal in August.
Wong, Chow and Law were sentenced to six, seven and eight months in jail, respectively.
Speaking outside court before the hearing, Law said the case was important in that it determined whether in the court’s eyes, the protest leading up to the Occupy sit-ins was a peaceful one.
“Our legal opinion is that we are optimistic that we will get [permission to appeal]. But we have also prepared for the worst,” he said.