Rally in Hong Kong as activist Edward Leung appeals against jail sentence

Supporters of an activist outside the High Court in Hong Kong yesterday. The flag reads, "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times". PHOTO: REUTERS
Supporters of an activist outside the High Court in Hong Kong yesterday. The flag reads, "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times". PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • Hundreds of black-clad pro-democracy protesters chanted "liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times", outside the city's High Court yesterday, as a leading activist appeared to appeal against a six-year jail sentence for rioting in 2016.

The court's walls were scrawled with graffiti reading: "History will absolve us", "If we burn you burn with us", and "No turn back 4HK".

The Asian financial hub is struggling to recover from weeks of violent clashes between police and tens of thousands of protesters, with parts of the city virtually cut off due to a paralysed metro system that was a target of vandalism.

Scores of shops were boarded up after also being trashed or torched, and more protests are expected in the coming days. Some streets were littered with broken glass and twisted metal debris from the demonstrations.

The protests escalated four months ago in opposition to a now withdrawn extradition Bill that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China for trial, but have broadened into a pro-democracy movement amid fear that Beijing is undermining Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" framework, which gives residents greater freedom than mainland Chinese.

Mr Edward Leung, 27 - one of the leaders of a movement advocating independence from China - and two other activists in 2016 got the harshest sentences handed down to pro-democracy leaders since the city returned to Chinese rule.

In his appeal, Leung's lawyer argued that his sentence was disproportionate to his offence, citing other more violent protesters receiving lighter sentences. Leung's case was adjourned yesterday ahead of judgment.

Outside the court, hundreds of protesters wore black masks in defiance of a new law banning face coverings that came into effect last Saturday to quell the unrest, but which has incited more violent protests.

Hong Kong's embattled leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday did not rule out asking Beijing for help to end the unrest, with the city's economy hit hard by the protests and facing its first recession in a decade.

 
 

A slew of international events and conferences due to be held in the city has been cancelled, with the organisers of the Hong Kong Squash Open the latest, stating they were postponing the event "in view of the current situation".

More than 200 shops and public utilities were damaged in violent clashes over the weekend. Also, more than 100 restaurants have closed in the past month, putting around 2,000 people out of work, a representative from an association of catering professionals told public broadcaster RTHK yesterday.

Since June, more than 2,300 people have been arrested, while two teenagers have been shot and wounded in skirmishes with police. Scores of people, including police officers, have been injured.

REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2019, with the headline 'Rally in HK as activist appeals against jail sentence'. Print Edition | Subscribe