Hong Kong Umbrella Leaders Defiant Despite Guilty Verdicts

Hong Kong Umbrella Leaders Defiant Despite Guilty Verdicts
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Hong Kong authorities’ prosecution of three student leaders sends a chilling warning for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong, Amnesty International says.

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Pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong (黃之鋒), Alex Chow (周永康) and Nathan Law (羅冠聰) were all found guilty today at the Eastern Magistrates’ Court for their roles in the events that sparked the 2014 Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong.

The charges specifically related to the students entering Hong Kong’s Civic Square on Sept. 26, 2014. Sentencing will take place on Aug. 15.

Law, who was found guilty of "inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly," said yesterday on Facebook, "If I could choose again, I would still take action that day without hesitation. I would stand firmly at my post and not back down."

Wong was acquitted of the same charge, but along with Chow was found guilty of the lighter charge, "taking part in an unlawful assembly."

Wong, speaking this morning before the verdict was handed down, says that when he was arrested on Sept. 26, 2014, he was only 17. He doesn’t regret starting the Umbrella Movement with the people of Hong Kong.

Wong and Law are now leaders of newly formed pro-democracy party Demosistō.

Chow, the former secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said, "Today is not an ending, but a beginning. Everyone knows that Hong Kong authorities are not prosecuting just Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law, but all the people that were involved in the Umbrella Movement. But this group will not dissipate as long as it has already taken the first step [referring to the Umbrella Movement]."

Amnesty International Hong Kong director Mabel Au says, “The prosecution of student leaders on vague charges smacks of political payback by the authorities."

“The continued persecution of prominent figures of the Umbrella Movement is a blow to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong.”

Amnesty International notes that the square had been a popular site for previous peaceful protests, “before the authorities restricted access to it in the summer of 2014.”

Additional reporting by ZiQing Low and Olivia Yang.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole