Occupy Central student leader Alex Chow fears UK visa delayed over conviction

The former Federation of Students leader says his application to study in Britain could be at risk after court hands down suspended jail sentence

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 7:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 7:30am

Occupy Central student leader Alex Chow Yong-kang said he feared his criminal conviction over the civil disobedience movement could have delayed his UK visa application.

Chow, who is enrolled in a masters programme at the London School of Economics, said he had not yet heard from the UK Home Office or the British consulate in Hong Kong after submitting a priority study visa application on August 23.

Priority applications usually take three to five working days to process.

The 25-year-old had planned to board a plane this coming Sunday to join a week-long orientation at the school where he will study city design and social science.

“I made a call to the visa hotline and the staff told me it’s a bit weird to be this long,” Chow said. “She asked me to wait for their email reply. Then I haven’t heard any updates so far.”

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases. Each application is judged on its individual merits in line with the UK’s immigration rules.”

Last month, Chow, who was a key figure in the pro-democracy protests of 2014, was sentenced to a three-week jail term suspended for one year for storming government headquarters in Admiralty two days before the protests. He was convicted of taking part in an unlawful assembly and inciting others to take part.

It was considered a sympathetic court ruling with the magistrate recognising that Chow, and another two student leaders who were also convicted, were expressing their demands based on genuinely held political ideals.

“I’m worried,” Chow said. “I’m not sure if my criminal record is to blame for the apparent hesitation in granting me a study visa.”

Chow said that as a human rights defender, the UK should not reject his application over the conviction.

The former leader of the Federation of Students, which played a major role in the Occupy movement, has decided to pursue an academic career while others chose different paths. His federation colleague Nathan Law Kwun-chung, for example, is a newly elected lawmaker.