Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Hong Kong has handed down jail sentences to three activists for their role in violent protests against authorities in Beijing and the semi-autonomous region in southeastern China in 2016.
Edward Leung, Lo Kin-man and Wong Ka-kui received 3.5, 6 and 7 years, respectively, after they were found guilty of rioting and assaulting police back then.
27-year-old former student Leung had played a key role in organizing the rallies on February 8 and 9, 2016, when clashes broke out with police as the demonstrators hurled bricks torn up from pavements and set rubbish alight in the commercial district of Mong Kok.
About 130 people, mostly police, were injured when the masked protesters violently protested to what they saw as Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy.
In that riot, two warning gunshots were fired at one point by a police officer trying to save an unconscious colleague.
Leung, a supporter of secession from mainland China, was, however, cleared of the more serious charge of incitement, which carried a heavier prison sentence.
Media sources said it was not immediately clear if he would appeal against the sentence.
Leung had earlier pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer.
High Court Judge Anthea Pang condemned “severe” violence at the riot, which she said had caused “great danger” to those at the scene, and which warranted the imposition of a strict deterrent sentence.
“The court absolutely does not allow livelihood or political disputes to be expressed through acts of violence,” she said.
Rioting in Hong Kong is defined under the city’s Public Order Ordinance and carries a maximum penalty of 10 years behind bars.
Over a dozen activists have been sentenced to prison over the 2016 riots.
Under a deal between Britain and China in 1997, Hong Kong was reunited with China, but it was decided that the territory should continue to enjoy its freedoms, including a separate legal system.
China says it protects those privileges, but insists it could not tolerate movements that seek full independence from the mainland.
Authorities in Beijing have repeatedly slammed the independence movement, with President Xi Jinping warning last year that any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty would be an act that crosses a “red line.”