Top court frees three Occupy activists

Handing down the judgement in the Court of Final Appeal he also said had been "inappropriate" to hand the sentences down retrospectively.

The three Hong Kong democracy activists convicted past year on charges of unlawful assembly and incitement, for their part in sparking 2014's Occupy protests in the city, won their appeal against prison terms on Tuesday. Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow had served roughly two months in jail before they were granted bail last November. The incident helped spark the Umbrella Movement, a 79-day occupation of the city's financial and administrative areas, with protesters demanding greater political autonomy. But after the government's intervention they were jailed for between six and eight months by the Court of Appeal.

Law said in a media briefing after the announcement of the verdict that he was saddened that the Court of Final Appeal had agreed with the Court of Appeal's determination that the storming of Civic Square, and the occupation - which became known as the Umbrella Movement - constituted violent actions.

Invalidating the sentences of imprisonment imposed by the Court of Appeal and reinstating those imposed by the magistrate, the court warned [press summary] that there is a new appellate guidance now in place from the Court of Appeal: "future offenders involved in large scale unlawful assemblies involving violence will be subject to the new guidelines rightly laid down by the Court of Appeal".

The nomination letter said it was in recognition of their "peaceful efforts to bring political reform and self determination to Hong Kong and protect the autonomy and freedom guaranteed (to) Hong Kong in the Sino-British Joint Declaration".

"Maybe more and more activists will be locked up because of this harsh judgment ..."

"It's not a time for celebration ..." Wong told them they should continue their fight for democracy.

In 2016, Wong, Law and Chow were sentenced to non-jail terms, including community service for "unlawful assembly".

Last week a dozen US lawmakers nominated Wong, Law, and Chow along with Hong Kong's entire pro-democracy movement for the Nobel Peace Prize, in an effort to recognize what they said were peaceful efforts to bring political reform to Hong Kong and uphold its rule of law and human rights.

Jonathan Man, a lawyer who has represented some of the rights activists, said: "This will have some impact on Hong Kong's activism ... the norm is different now and has shifted to heavier sentences". The ruling "set a risky precedent for sending people to prison for protesting in the future", says Maya Wang, senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch.

  • Rogelio Becker