Rights groups, US lawmakers slam sentencing

Rights groups, US lawmakers slam sentencing

HKU legal scholar Eric Cheung

Human rights groups and US lawmakers were quick to denounce the jail terms handed down to three prominent young pro-democracy activists on Thursday.

Amnesty International said the government’s “relentless” pursuit of jail terms for Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow was a “vindictive attack” on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“The real danger to the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Hong Kong is the authorities’ continued persecution of prominent democracy activists. Prosecutions aimed at deterring participation in peaceful protests must be dropped,” said its Hong Kong director Mabel Au.

The China director of Human Rights Watch, Sophie Richardson tweeted: “Hong Kong’s democracy, standing as legal, business and free speech hubs badly damaged by today’s sentences.”

Hong Kong University legal scholar Eric Cheung, who was in court to express support for the former student leaders, said he was saddened that three “upright youngsters” had been put behind bars.

“They are very capable and they are very devoted youngsters and they have great potential. What they did, so far as I can see, was really out of their concern for Hong Kong,” Cheung said.

In the US, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China also criticised the ruling.

“The political prosecutions and resentencing of these young people is shameful and further evidence that Hong Kong’s cherished autonomy is precipitously eroding,” said Senator Marco Rubio, chair of the commission.

Rubio said US policies must reflect the reality that Beijing is attempting to crush the next generation of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement and undermine the “One country, Two systems” principle.

Congressman Chris Smith added that Hong Kong may risk losing its special status under US laws if Beijing refuses to abide by promises made in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Ahead of the judgement, the Department of Justice had said that there was “absolutely no basis to imply any political motive” on its part in relation to the case.