08/21/2017, 14.30
HONG KONG
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Tens of thousands protest conviction of student activists

The protest rally was the biggest since 2014. Foreign pro-democracy activists and politicians criticise the court's decision, following the government’s appeal. Hong Kong’s chief secretary rejects the accusations, claiming that judicial independence is the foundation of the city's success.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Tens of thousands of people yesterday marched through the streets of Hong Kong in protest against the imprisonment of Joshua Wong and two other pro-democracy activists, Nathan Law and Alex Chow. 

Organisers claimed the rally was the biggest since the Occupy Central protests of 2014. Police put the figure at about 22,000.

Protesters chanted ‘Release all political prisoners’ whilst some carried a large banner reading: ‘It's not a crime to fight against totalitarianism.’

Student leader and march organiser Lester Shum describe the large turnout in support of the jailed activists as encouraging. “It is proof that Hong Kong people will not be scared away by political persecution,” he said.

Marchers reached Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal, where the three dissidents were sentenced to six to eight months imprisonment.

The court decision sparked criticisms from local and foreign pro-democracy activists and politicians over the government’s appeal against the initial sentence of community service, seeking a harsher sentence.

The conviction will keep the three activists away from politics for a while. Anyone jailed for more than three months is disqualified from contesting Hong Kong elections for five years.

The three activists were found guilty of “unlawful assembly" when they and other student protesters scaled a fence around Hong Kong’s legislative building on 26 September 2014.

The incident triggered mass protests in favour of democracy that came to be known as Occupy Central or Umbrella Movement (protesters used umbrellas against police water cannons).

For its part, the Hong Kong government continues to reject the argument that it victimised the three activists on orders from Beijing.

Hong Kong’s chief secretary of the administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung slammed foreign media for biased reporting, noting that judicial independence remained the cornerstone of the city’s success.

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