Occupy leader Alex Chow granted UK study visa despite conviction over storming of Hong Kong government HQ
Chow secures permit for course at London School of Economics, but doubts remain over when he will be able to join as Department of Justice seeks review of his three-week suspended jail sentence
The British government has granted a student visa to Occupy movement leader Alex Chow Yong-kang, ending fears the permit would be denied after his conviction for unlawful assembly over the storming of government headquarters at the start of the 2014 pro-democracy protests.
Chow, 26, announced on Saturday on Facebook that he had received the visa on Friday. However, he won’t be able to leave the city immediately owing to a court date on Wednesday.
In July, he was one of three protest leaders found guilty of unlawfully entering the area known as Civic Square, a fenced off site outside government headquarters, on September 26, 2014. The incident took place just two days before the “umbrella movement”, a street occupation that lasted 79 days, kicked off in its campaign for what organisers called “genuine universal suffrage”.
Last month, Chow was handed a three-week jail sentence, suspended for a year. At the same time, two other Occupy leaders, Joshua Wong Chi-fung and newly-elected lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung, were sentenced to community service orders of 80 and 120 hours, respectively.
The Department of Justice is now seeking a review of their sentences in an attempt to impose more severe penalties, which could involve immediate imprisonment.
“I consulted my lawyers and the latest legal advice is that I can only leave Hong Kong after the trial,” he told the South China Morning Post on Saturday night. “Whether I will be able to leave or not, I don’t know. I’ll have to wait and see.”
Chow’s flight to London is scheduled for Thursday. The orientation week at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he has been accepted to study for a master’s degree in city design and social science, starts on Monday.
“The government decision [to challenge the court ruling] is quite ridiculous, especially given that one of us – Nathan – received 50,000 votes in the Legislative Council elections. While the people want to see him as a lawmaker, the government wants to throw him in prison,” Chow said. “There’s a great contrast ... They clearly want to dissuade people from launching civil disobedience movements.”
He said he did not fear jail.
Chow filed his student visa application at the British consulate on August 23. He had to wait about 20 working days for a decision instead of the standard four days.