All three judges on a Court of Appeal (CoA) panel agreed on a decision that replaced a previous one — which carried merely community service as punishment for three defendants guilty of violating the Public Order Ordinance in an illegal act that started the “Occupy Central” movement in fall 2014 — with prison terms up to eight months. The CoA panel handed down the decision on Thursday and explained it agreed with the Justice Department that the previous sentences were not adequate in terms of serving justice in this case. It therefore ordered six months of imprisonment for Demosisto leader Joshua Wong Chi-fung, eight months for disqualified lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung, and seven months for former student union chief Alex Chow Yong-kang.
The judges made it clear they had considered all the relevant facts before arriving at the conclusion that the three deserved heavier punishments than community service for the crime they committed. They added that exercising the right of assembly and procession does not warrant disturbing public order or use of violence. The CoA judges should be applauded for their due diligence in upholding the rule of law, one of the cornerstones of the city’s success. To quote Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Central People’s Government’s Liaison Office in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region: “Justice prevailed in Hong Kong yet again.”
Wong, Law and Chow managed to show no remorse when the court announced its decision and Wong even shouted some words of defiance as he was escorted from the court room. Evidently they are still in fighting mode and believe they did nothing wrong. This kind of attitude alone makes their increased sentences appropriate. As leaders their instructions resulted in some very violent clashes between their followers and police officers in the early days of “Occupy” three years ago. It is about time they paid for their outlaw impulses. But of more importance is the moral lesson to be drawn from this case: Political appeals are not above the law, no matter how noble they may seem to be; neither is being young an excuse for breaking the law.
It is to be hoped that the beefed-up punishment will help curb the societal “sick trend”, as described by Judge Wally Yeung Chun-kuen in his written ruling. Those demagogues who have been dominated by their “arrogant and self-righteous thinking” should face the reality: They are ruining the otherwise bright future of many young people by instilling in them some toxic thoughts and ideas, which essentially oppose the rule of law. The deterrent sentence handed down by the CoA judges on Thursday is also necessary to alert people, especially youngsters, to the dire consequences of allowing themselves to be used as pawns in violent political confrontations.