Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera

Hong Kong jails 12 for storming legislature in 2019

A protester defaces the Hong Kong emblem [File: Philip Fong/AFP]

A Hong Kong court has sentenced 12 people to jail terms ranging from more than four years to nearly seven years after they stormed the city’s legislature during the 2019 pro-democracy protests.

Hundreds of protesters broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 that year, daubing graffiti in the chamber and defacing a government emblem amid rising public anger over a proposed extradition bill that many feared would allow authorities to send people to mainland China for trial.

On Saturday District Court Judge Li Chi-ho sentenced the defendants including actor Gregory Wong after they were previously found guilty of rioting. Wong, who is 45, was jailed for six years and two months after pleading not guilty.

Political activists Ventus Lau and Owen Chow, who had pleaded guilty, were given terms of 54 months and 20 days, and 61 months and 15 days, respectively.

Althea Suen, the 27-year-old former president of the University of Hong Kong’s student union, who had also pleaded guilty, was sentenced to four years and nine months.

Two former reporters who were charged alongside the 12, but not convicted of rioting, were fined for “entering or staying in the Legislative Council chamber”.

Li described the incident as a “serious” blow to the city’s rule of law.

The activists defended their actions ahead of sentencing.

“The actual crime committed by the protesters … is the pursuit of democracy, freedom of thought and free will,” Suen told the court.

Chow, meanwhile, said the riot was “the language of the unheard”, citing civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

He said the government’s refusal to withdraw the extradition bill after a march opposing it drew one million people was the immediate cause of the incident.

“How a political regime handles dissent and whether it can rectify its mistakes will decide whether a society can maintain sustainable growth,” said Chow, who is charged with conspiracy to commit subversion in a separate ongoing national security trial.

Relatives and supporters cried and shouted “Take care!” and “Hang in there!” as the defendants were led away from the dock.

Rioting carries a maximum sentence of seven years in Hong Kong’s District Court.

More than 10,200 people were arrested in connection with the 2019 protests, of whom 2,937 have been charged with offences including rioting, unlawful assembly and criminal damage, according to police figures.

Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong in the middle of 2020 that critics say has criminalised dissent. The Chinese and Hong Kong governments say they have restored calm and stability. Hong Kong’s own national security law is expected to be passed as early as next month.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.