Guilty: Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong and associates could face jail over protest that sparked 79-day Occupy turmoil
Ruling marks first court convictions for Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow
Three prominent student leaders who spearheaded the 2014 Occupy movement were convicted on Thursday over the storming of government headquarters – an incident that led to the blocking of key roads for 79 days.
Former Scholarism convenor Joshua Wong Chi-fung was found guilty at Eastern Court of unlawful assembly along with former Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang, 25. Demosisto chairman Nathan Law Kwun-chung, 23, was convicted of inciting others to join an unlawful assembly.
Wong beat the incitement charge, and all three were released on bail. Their case marked the first criminal convictions of the student leaders who played a pivotal role in the civil disobedience movement for greater democracy after Beijing set a framework for political reform that was seen as too restrictive.
The trio will be sentenced on August 15, pending reports on the suitability of probation and community service orders.
The maximum penalty is a HK$5,000 fine and three years’ imprisonment.
Wong, currently Demosisto’s secretary general, remained defiant, and said they would seek legal advice on whether to appeal.
“We do not regret what we have done,” he said
Law was also unrepentant. “Because of our actions, the Umbrella Movement started, and we believe it is very important for Hong Kong,” he said. “We still think we did something right.”
Law said he felt calm when the verdict was delivered, as it had been almost two years since his initial arrest.
But it was uncertain whether his conviction would affect his bid to run for a Legislative Council seat in September.
His lawyer, Michael Chai Chun, told Magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan in mitigation that Law would be disqualified from the race if he was jailed for three months or more, even if it was a suspended sentence.
Law was tight-lipped about his plans, only saying he trusted his political campaign team to fulfil their duties if he was incarcerated.
The case centred on the key protest two days before the roads were occupied, when student activists stormed the east wing forecourt at government headquarters, unofficially dubbed Civic Square, when it was closed for security reasons on September 26.
Cheung emphasised in her hour-long verdict delivery that the court would only rule in accordance with the law, regardless of the evidence touching upon some political or highly sensitive social issues.
The court heard that Wong encouraged others to enter the forecourt before he climbed over its newly erected three-metre security fence.
Law then took over the microphone in calling for more people to surround police officers and block the complex, with Chow among those who broke in.
The protest was held without police permission or the government Administrative Wing’s consent to enter the compound.
The incitement charge against Wong did not stick as the court could not be sure that his brief call on stage for the storming of the compound would prompt disorderly entry causing fear – the two elements to prove incitement– when there was no evidence to suggest that he knew they would be physically obstructed by security guards at the scene.