Recent developments, upcoming cases: Prosecutions and lawsuits brought by the Hong Kong government against pro-democracy leaders

…following last week’s imprisonment of 16 pro-democracy activists for six to 13 months for the nonviolent offense of unlawful assembly

For the full overview, go to “Overview of prosecutions and lawsuits brought by the Hong Kong government against pro-democracy leaders

21 August 2017

Last week, the Court of Appeal of the High Court issued verdicts in two cases involving 16 pro-democracy activists, 4 of whom are leaders. The HK government had appealed the original sentences (15 to community service, 1 to a suspended three-week sentence to accommodate study abroad) the 16 had received.

On 15 August, the court sentenced 12 activists to 13 months in prison for unlawful assembly in relation to a June 2014 protest at Civic Square against the government’s New Territories development plan, while 1 activist received an 8-month sentence. Raphael Wong, vice-chair of League of Social Democrats, was amongst the 12 sentenced to 13 months, becoming the first pro-democracy leader ever in HK’s history to receive a lengthy prison term.

Two days later, on 17 August, the court sentenced Alex Chow to 6 months in prison for unlawful assembly, Joshua Wong to 7 months for unlawful assembly, and Nathan Law to 8 months for inciting unlawful assembly, all in relation to the occupation of Civic Square (which had been closed to the public after the June protest) on 26 September 2014. They became the second, third, and fourth pro-democracy leaders sentenced to prison terms.

In all cases, the original sentences of community service had been completed, so the 16 are all serving two sentences for one crime, a case of double jeopardy, though the court said it took completion of the first sentence into account and reduced the amount of time in prison from the amount the defendants otherwise would have received if they had not already served the first sentence.

While the Public Order Ordinance establishes a sentence up to 5 years for this offense, until these cases, prison terms were rarely given for the offense, and the ones that were ranged from three weeks to three months. The 6–13-month sentences are a clear precedent. The court justified them by saying 1) they should act as a deterrent, and 2) the actions in which the protesters were involved included either actual elements of violence or had the risk of resulting in violence. But the 4 were not convicted of a violent offense, nor did the original verdicts make any mention of them being violent or inciting violence. In essence, to the extent that reason #2 is the justification for their unprecedently long sentences, they are being sentenced for a crime they didn’t commit.

In all, 26 pro-democracy leaders face 40 different cases.

4 (Raphael Wong, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, Alex Chow) have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 6 to 13 months, 3 for unlawful assembly, 1 for inciting unlawful assembly, all nonviolent protest-related offenses.

16 of the 40 cases have been concluded (not including actual and potential appeals)

Two big cases this week:

On 23 August, 9 activists go on trial for a range of offenses related to the 6 November 2016 protest against the National People’s Congress Standing Committee interpretation of the Basic Law on oath-taking which lead to the disqualification of 6 pro-democracy reprenstatives from the Legislative Council. These 9 include 3 leaders, Avery Ng of LSD, Dickson Chau Ka-faat of LSD, and Devon Cheng Pui-lun, former Lingnan U student union president, as well as 2 core members of Demosistō, Derek Lam and Ivan Lam. Ivan Lam was amongst the 12 sentenced last week to 13 months in prison for unlawful assembly.

On 25 August, the Court of Final Appeal of the High Court will announce whether it will hear the appeal of Baggio Leung and Yau Wai-ching of a High Court decision disqualifying them from Legco over their oath-taking in October 2016. They are 2 of 6 pro-democracy Legco members who have been disqualified.

on-going case:

The High Court is hearing 20 cases of contempt of court related to the 26 November 2014 clearance of the Mong Kok occupation during the Umbrella Movement. Ten (including Lester Shum and Joshua Wong) of those on trial have acknowledged contempt, ten (including Raphael Wong) have not. The trial could result in additional prison sentences for Raphael Wong and Joshua Wong, both sentenced last week.

important upcoming case:

On 19 September, 9 pro-democracy leaders will go on trial on various “inciting public nuisance” charges related to the start of the Umbrella Movement on 28 September 2014. These are Chu Yiu-ming, Chan Kin-man, Benny Tai, Lee Wing-tat, Shiu Ka-chun, Tanya Chan, Raphael Wong, Tommy Cheung, Eason Chung.