In a city famed for large, peaceful street protests, Hong Kong’s highest court has sent a sharp warning to those who march: Any injuries will mean the event will be deemed violent, and harsh punishments will result. That message was contained in a Court of Final Appeals ruling released Tuesday that quashed the prison sentences of three of the most prominent leaders of the city’s democracy movement. The judgment found that the appellate court erred when it jailed Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow in August for leading the occupation of a government plaza in 2014, touching off a monthslong sit-in that sought elections free from China’s interference. Their demands were never met.
The high court disagreed with appellate judges who found the men’s initial sentence in 2016, which included community service and a suspended prison term, had been too lenient. Wong, Law and Chow served nearly three months in jail before they were released in November on bail, pending the appeal. The justices warned that future participants in “large scale unlawful assemblies involving violence … will therefore be subject to the new guidelines.”
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