FREE HONG KONG PRO-DEMOCRACY STUDENT LEADERS
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The decision by the Court of Appeal in Hong Kong to sentence three courageous, principled young men to jail is an outrageous miscarriage of justice, a death knell for Hong Kong’s rule of law and basic human rights, and a severe blow to the principles of “One Country, Two Systems” on which Hong Kong was returned to China twenty years ago.
Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law helped lead the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong in 2014 – one of the most peaceful and restrained movements of public protest the world has ever seen. Joshua Wong and Nathan Law have already served the penalties imposed by a court a year ago. Joshua Wong served 80 hours of community service and Nathan Law 120 hours. Alex Chow received a three-week suspended prison sentence a year ago. Yet the Hong Kong government decided to reopen the case and seek tougher punishments. The Court of Appeal jailed Joshua Wong for six months, Alex Chow for seven months and Nathan Law for eight months.
Joshua Wong turns 21 in October, an age where he could be eligible to stand for election to the Legislative Council. However, his eligibility is automatically now removed as a result of a six-month jail sentence. Nathan Law, aged 24, was elected as the youngest ever member of the Legislative Council a year ago, but was removed from his seat earlier this year on the grounds that he failed to take his oath properly. Alex Chow is 27 and has recently completed his studies at the London School of Economics and prepared to leave for UC Berkeley for his PhD studies.
The three student leaders were charged for leading a peaceful sit-in that triggered the 79-day pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014. At that time, the Hong Kong government described the demonstrations as illegal, invoking the Public Order Ordinance, which has been criticized by the United Nations Human Rights Committee for possibly “facilitat[ing] excessive restrictions” to basic rights. The law, which requires that processions involving more than 30 people and assemblies with more than 50 must apply for and receive a “letter of no objection” from the government in advance, is incompatible with article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which applies to Hong Kong. Human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch have long urged Hong Kong authorities to revise the ordinance to comply with the ICCPR. According to Human Rights Watch, imposing new punishments on Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, who had already completed their sentences of community service, may violate article 14(7) of the ICCPR, which enunciates the principle of “double jeopardy” that no one shall be “punished again” for the same offense.
In a series of tweets Joshua Wong exhibited his courage even upon learning of his sentence. He wrote: “You can lock up our bodies, but not our minds! We want democracy in Hong Kong. And we will not give up. They can silence protests, remove us from the legislature and lock us up. But they will not win the hearts and minds of Hong Kongers. Imprisoning us will not extinguish Hongkongers’ desire for universal suffrage. We are stronger, more determined, and we will win.”
We stand in solidarity with these three brave young men, we condemn the verdict by the Court of Appeal, we call for it to be reviewed and for these three political prisoners to be released immediately! Under the Sino-Joint Declaration, Britain has a responsibility to defend Hong Kong's freedom. We urge the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, to speak out for these brave young men. We urge Britain and the international community to put pressure on China to respect One country Two systems!
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