china - HONG KONG

Hong Kong protest leader pledges to fight on after escaping jail sentence

Student leaders (from L) Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow chant slogans before a verdict, outside a court in Hong Kong August 15, 2016.
Student leaders (from L) Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow chant slogans before a verdict, outside a court in Hong Kong August 15, 2016. Reuters/Bobby Yip

Joshua Wong, one of three leaders of Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution who escaped a jail sentence on Monday, told RFI he would fight on for "democracy and self-determination". He, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were accused of climbing into a government complex during the 2014 protests.


Jail was definitely a possibility but Joshua Wong, who became the public face of the protests, was given 80 hours community service for unlawful assembly, Nathan Law was sentenced to 120 hours and Alex Chow was given a three-week prison sentence suspended for a year.

Wong said he was relieved not to have received a jail sentence, especially after such a long battle, and pledged to keep fighting for the future of Hong Kong.

"We will have to uphold and demand civil disobedience, and democracy and also, self-determination," Joshua Wong told RFI. "We hope to ensure the right to self-determination, through referendum, through sovereignty, and the constitution of Hong Kong in the future.

He said he felt optimistic that more people would join their side and show them support.

"I hope that finally, Hong Kong will achieve universal suffrage and direct election but it seems that it is not an easy thing for us. But still, we will try our best through our commitment and we will fight for the future."

'Time to care'

In April Wong and Law launched a new political party called Demosisto.

The party’s first challenge comes on 4 September when Law is standing as a candidate in elections for Hong Kong’s legislative council.

He would have been disqualified from the election had he been sentenced to more than three months’ imprisonment this week.

Wong's lawyer, Michael Vidler, said the court had hinted beforehand it was only going to pass a sentence of community service. But he said that the process itself was tedious and politically orientated.

"The fact that he was detained, far longer than he should have been when he was originally arrested; the fact that after he was released on an order from the court after we've brought up the habeas corpus proceeding ... The police were indicating they were going to summons him, which is a lot lesser offense, and we tried to get some sort of resolution, try to get a decision out of it but they just went quiet and did nothing," Vidler said.

The case was a warning to anybody thinking of becoming involved in politics that "this may happen to you", he argued.

"That has a very chilling effect, or would have some chilling effect on some people. Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow, they are made of sterner stuff, they were not intimidated."

Faith in the system

Some argue there is at least one good thing to take out of the whole ordeal.

"I do believe that the judiciary in Hong Kong tries very hard to indicate to the world that it wants to maintain its autonomy, its independence, and that it does not share the political position of the administration of CY Leung," Hong Kong-based political analyst Joseph Cheng told RFI.

It shows the court system still has integrity, he believes.

"This is very very important because this is the last line of defence for the people of Hong Kong, for the community, because, as reflected by public opinion surveys in recent months, the people of Hong Kong seemed to have lost confidence in the police, and even in the Independent Commission Against Corruption."

A few years ago a top Chinese leader said Hong Kong's justice system had "to cooperate" with the Chinese government, he points out, shocking local people since they value the separation of powers.

This verdict should boost their confidence in the system, Cheng argues. 

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