HONG KONG • A Hong Kong appeals court jailed three leaders of the Chinese-ruled city's democracy movement for six to eight months yesterday, dealing a blow to the youth-led push for universal suffrage and prompting accusations of political interference.
The jail terms will curtail the political ambitions of the trio, disqualifying them from running for seats in the financial hub's legislature for the next five years.
Joshua Wong, 20, Alex Chow, 26, and Nathan Law, 24, were sentenced last year to non-jail terms, including community service for unlawful assembly, but Hong Kong's Department of Justice applied for a review, seeking imprisonment.
Wong was jailed for six months, Chow for seven months and Law for eight months. Law had been the city's youngest democratically elected legislator before he was stripped last month of his seat by a government-led lawsuit.
The three appeared stern but calm as their sentences were delivered by a panel of three judges. A lawyer involved in the case said they would appeal.
Wong, who was 17 when he became the face of the student-led democracy movement, punched his fist in the air as he left the court room and shouted: "Hong Kong people don't give up."
Minutes earlier, he had tweeted: "They can silence protests, remove us from the legislature and lock us up. But they will not win the hearts and minds of Hongkongers."
Chow waved at his parents as he left the court. His mother broke down in tears.
The three judges in Hong Kong's second-highest court, the court of appeal, wrote in their judgment that the three could not say they were sentenced for exercising freedom of assembly in a city where many democrats see a gradual erosion of freedoms promised in 1997.
"In recent years, there's been an unhealthy trend in Hong Kong society. Some people use the pursuit of ideals... as an excuse to take illegal action," Judge Wally Yeung wrote.