Stiffer sentences for Joshua Wong and two other pro-democracy activists

Last year the court sentenced Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow to community service, but the decision was deemed too lenient for the Hong Kong government. A prison sentence of more than three months bars people from taking part in elections for five years. For human rights activists, the court decision was politically motivated in order to silence the three and deter further protests.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Hong Kong court sentenced pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong to six months in prison for "unlawful assembly" along with Nathan Law and Alex Chow who were sentenced to eight and seven months respectively.

Human rights groups slammed the court decision because it stems from the intervention of the Hong Kong government in the case. Last year the court had sentenced the three activists to community service, but the government appealed the sentence, arguing it was too lenient.

Joshua Wong Chi-fung, head of the Scholarism activist group, was arrested for crossing the barrier put up around the Hong Kong government building on 26 September 2014.

His action and that of other hundreds of students triggered a series of sit-ins in the city’s central area known as the Occupy Central or ‘umbrellas’ movement. Protesters used umbrellas against police water cannons.

Activists demanded Beijing allow direct election for the city’s chief executive, who is currently picked by a committee of 1,200 mostly pro-Beijing people.

As a result of the court decision, Wong, Law and Chow will be effectively prevented from standing in upcoming elections. Anyone jailed for more than three months is disqualified from contesting local elections in Hong Kong for the following five years.

Mr Law was elected to Hong Kong's legislature last year, but was disqualified last month when the city's high court ruled that he had improperly taken his oath.

Human rights activists have criticised the Hong Kong government, saying its appeals were politically motivated in order to deter future protests and keep young people out of elected politics.

Wong's mother, Grace Ng Chau-mei said the city had become “depraved”. In a letter, she expressed her outrage at Hong Kong’s Justice Department. She encouraged her son “to follow the truth, and you can be courageous”.

For its part, the Hong Kong government has defended its position. Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung insisted today that there was “no political motive involved” in his department’s request for stiffer sentences for three prominent student leaders.