'Idealist' trio walk free again

Local | Carain Yeung 22 Sep 2016

A court has rejected a government bid to put three student leaders behind bars.

The trio had stormed into the forecourt of government headquarters, or Civic Square, on September 24, 2014, sparking the Occupy protests two days later.

Magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan last month handed down non-custodial sentences to Demosisto secretary- general Joshua Wong Chi-fung, party chairman and legislator-elect Nathan Law Kwun-chung, and former Hong Kong Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang for their participation in the illegal assembly and inciting others to take part in an illegal assembly.

But the Department of Justice was not happy and asked Cheung to review her decision, arguing that an immediate custodial sentence was the only appropriate punishment. At Eastern Court yesterday, the prosecution said the act was premeditated, adding that there were more than 100 people at the illegal assembly and that several security guards were injured.

Submitting precedents to the magistrate, the prosecution asked for the student leaders to be imprisoned.

However, Cheung pointed out that all the precedents submitted involved violent acts by triad members or armed attackers.

"The students were seeking their ideal and there's a big difference from the triad members who looked after their interests."

The magistrate further doubted that the prosecution's claim that "immediate imprisonment is the only appropriate sentence" and asked the prosecutors if they had gathered statistics of the sentencing of illegal assembly cases.

As to claims the non-custodial sentences handed could not reflect the seriousness of the case, the magistrate said: "I would have handed a fine if it was not serious."

The prosecution also argued that the trio did not show genuine remorse. Cheung said pleading guilty is not the only way to demonstrate remorse, adding that accepting the court's ruling is also a way.

Barrister Edwin Choy Wai-bond, for Chow, cited a biblical reference and urged the magistrate not to become Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who succumbed to pressure to crucify Jesus.

Cheung upheld the previous ruling as the prosecution failed to provide sufficient grounds. Wong, 19, was given 80 hours of community service for his conviction on one count of unlawful assembly and Law, 23, 120 hours for one count of inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly.

Chow, 25, who is leaving for Britain for postgraduate studies, was given a three-week jail term suspended for one year.

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