Convicted Occupy activist says UK visa decision will indicate how Hong Kong protesters are viewed abroad
Alex Chow Yong-kang, admitted to study at London School of Economics, describes British adjudication as ‘touchstone’ for international community
A UK visa decision following the conviction of three Hong Kong student activists over their civil disobedience efforts will be a good indicator of how the international community treats such protesters, Alex Chow Yong-kang believes as he seeks to study in Britain.
Chow, who was given a suspended jail term on Monday after being found guilty of unlawful assembly in the lead-up to the Occupy protests of 2014, remained defiant, saying it would be “impossible” for them to reflect on their punishment as their actions symbolised their advocacy for the rule of law, democracy and freedom.
Speaking on a radio programme on Tuesday, the former Federation of Students secretary general revealed he planned to leave for the UK on September 18. The University of Hong Kong graduate was accepted by the London School of Economics to study a master’s degree in city design and social science.
“It’s an unconditional offer, so it should not affect my entry to the school,” the 25-year-old said when asked whether the three-week jail term he received would affect his study plans. The sentence is suspended for one year to facilitate his departure next month and replaced a 80-hour community service order he was originally handed.
But Chow admitted the visa application was still underway, pending a student enrolment number that would be issued by the school as early as this week. He said he had no idea what the outcome would be and described his UK visa bid as a “touchstone” for the international community.
Fellow student Joshua Wong Chi-fung, who was also ordered to perform 80 hours of community service, said he respected the judgment and would bear his legal responsibilities. He and Chow said they did not regret storming government headquarters in September 2014, widely seen as a prelude to the 79-day protests that lasted until December.
Wong was also found guilty on one count of unlawful assembly. The former Scholarism convenor was acquitted of inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly, a charge Demosisto president Nathan Law Kwun-chung was convicted of. Law was slapped with a 120-hour community service order.
Watch: Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders avoid jail
The pair was heard encouraging others over a microphone to join them and enter the forecourt of the government compound by climbing over a three-metre fence. Asked why he escaped the charge while Law was convicted, Wong said it could have been due to different “legal viewpoints” as he only held the microphone for three minutes, whereas Law spoke for three hours.
The student activist added the sentencing had stoked their determination to push for genuine democracy and civic nomination of the chief executive through civil disobedience.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he respected the judgment and sidestepped a question on Tuesday on whether he thought the sentences were too lenient. He also demurred when asked whether the government would launch an appeal.
“Whether the case is appealed or not is up to the justice department to decide,” he said.
Law, a candidate for a Legislative Council seat on Hong Kong Island, had faced the possibility of being ineligible to run had he received a jail term of at least three months. He is among 15 candidates vying for six Hong Kong Island Legco seats.