Hong Kong 'Umbrella Revolution' leader convicted for protests

Joshua Wong – who led the demonstrations that paralysed the city for months – could be jailed for up to two years following the verdict.

Pro-democracy protesters put up their umbrellas near the government headquarters in Hong Kong on October 2, 2014. On July 22, 2016, three student leaders who were at the forefront of what has now been termed the “Umbrella Movement”, were convicted of participating in and inciting others to join the protests. The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images
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Hong Kong // A key figure in Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Revolution” was convicted on Thursday of participating in a protest that sparked mass pro-democracy rallies, in what rights groups have called a “chilling warning”.

Joshua Wong — who led the demonstrations that paralysed the city for months — could be jailed for up to two years following the verdict. This comes as tensions remain high in the semi-autonomous city with fears growing that Beijing is tightening its grip.

The 19-year-old has always said the various protest-related cases against him were political persecution. Rights group Amnesty International described cases against peaceful protesters as intimidation on Thursday after the verdict.

Together with fellow student leaders Alex Chow and Nathan Law, Wong was convicted for taking part in an unlawful assembly after he and others climbed over a fence into a government complex forecourt known as Civic Square on September 26, 2014. Their protest triggered wider rallies that exploded two days later when police fired tear gas to disperse crowds.

Chow was convicted for taking part in the protest and Law for inciting others to do so.

“No matter what is the penalty ... we will still continue to fight against suppression from the government,” Wong said after the ruling.

“We know facing the largest communist regime in the world is a long-term battle for us to fight for democracy.”

The three defendants, who smiled in resignation at the verdict, were released on bail and are due back in court on August 15 for sentencing.

The charge of participating in an unlawful assembly has a maximum sentence of up to five years, but the magistrates court where the trio were tried can only give a maximum jail term of two years per offence due to its status as a lower court.

Wong was at the forefront of the Umbrella Revolution, which brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for more than two months in 2014 as residents called on Beijing to allow fully free elections of future leaders.

Young campaigners were left angry and frustrated after the rallies failed to win political reform, with Wong and Law since founding a new political party, Demosisto, campaigning for self-determination for Hong Kong.

* Agence France-Presse