Young leaders of massive 2014 Hong Kong protests get prison

Joshua Wong seen in the prison bus after his sentencing in Hong Kong on Thursday

In 2014, the courageous trio helped lead what become known as the Umbrella Movement - an enormous political protest defending Hong Kong's freedoms from an increasingly aggressive Beijing.

Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law, all student activists, were convicted of unlawful assembly having been among a group that scaled a fence surrounding the legislative headquarters.

A court sentenced the three activists to community service past year but the government appealed the decision and asked for a harsher punishment.

But critics see the new sentences as an indication of China's undue influence over the Hong Kong judiciary - and as examples of another kind of unhealthy trend in the financial hub: Beijing's "vindictive attack on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly".

"It smacks of political imprisonment, plain and simple", said Jason Ng, the author of Umbrellas in Bloom, a book about Hong Kong's youth protest movement. Wong was jailed for six months, Chow for seven months and Law for eight months.

But today, Hong Kong's Department of Justice decided that those penalties were too lenient.

Under Hong Kong law, the sentences bar the three from standing as candidates in elections for five years.

But the Hong Kong government has denied this, saying there was "absolutely no basis" to claims of political motives.

The sentencing of the three protest leaders capped an emotional week for the city's embattled democracy activists, with one Democratic Party member being accused Tuesday of falsifying an account of abduction and torture by Chinese agents.

"Imprisoning us will not extinguish Hongkonger's desire for universal suffrage". Like Andrei Sakahorv, Vaclav Havel, Aung San Suu Kyi and so many dissidents that came before them, the men were hit with a bogus charge ("unlawful assembly"), were found guilty and served out their punishments previous year.

"Some people use the pursuit of an excuse to take illegal action", Judge Wally Yeung wrote, according to Reuters.

Prior to the sentencing, Wong urged his supporters who had gathered in the High Court lobby to continue fighting for full democracy. "We can still win", said Wong, wearing the same T-shirt he did almost three years ago when he, then 17, climbed over a fence into the square.



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