02/06/2018, 14.37
HONG KONG – CHINA
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Occupy Central leaders released with a 'warning'

Today's ruling overturns that of August, but promises harsher penalties for "future offenders". For Wong, there's nothing to celebrate. The court’s decision is a "a sugar-coated severe case".

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Hong Kong’s highest court has ordered the release of three pro-democracy activists sentenced to months in prison last year for their role in 2014 protests.

For one of the activists, Joshua Wong, there is no reason to celebrate the ruling because its warning against "future offenders" will have a chilling effect on future peaceful protests.

According to the first court decision in August 2016, the three were supposed to perform community service, but the Hong Kong government, perhaps pressured by Beijing, appealed it. The subsequent trial saw Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow get six, eight and seven months in prison respectively.

Today the Court of Final Appeal overturned the August 2017 conviction, stating that the appeal court should have considered other sentencing options.

At the same time, the ruling includes a warning against "future offenders" who might become involved in "large scale unlawful assemblies involving violence,” noting that they will be subject to new guidelines laid down by the Court of Appeal, the same court that convicted the three in the first place.

For Wong, there is thus "no cause for celebration", calling the ruling "a sugar-coated severe case".

Noting that pro-democracy protesters never had any intention of physically harming anyone and insisted on non-violence, he warned that the government’s definition of "violence" will discourage people from taking part in future peaceful demonstrations. "Our freedoms will shrink," he said.

Meanwhile, the three leaders of the Occupy Central movement were recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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