The Leaders of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution Have Avoided Jail Time

Leaders of Hong Kong's "Umbrella Revolution" (L to R) Joshua Wong, 19, Nathan Law, 23, and Alex Chow, 25, shout slogans upon their arrival outside the Eastern Court in Hong Kong on August 15, 2016. Three leaders of Hong Kong's "Umbrella Revolution" are facing possible jail sentences on August 15 over protests that sparked massive rallies in 2014, as fears grow that Beijing is closing its grip on the city.  / AFP / ANTHONY WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
Anthony Wallace — AFP/ Getty Images

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Three Hong Kong student activists will avoid jail time for their activities in the 2014 pro-democracy protests here, a judge decreed on Monday.

Joshua Wong, 19, who emerged as a poster child for civil disobedience during the three-month demonstration, known as the Umbrella Revolution, was sentenced to 80 hours of community service for unlawful assembly; 23-year-old Nathan Law, currently a candidate in next month’s legislative elections, will serve 120.

Alex Chow, 25, received a three-week prison sentence, but with a one-year suspension, which means the sentence will likely be lifted if he does not violate the law in the next twelve months.

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The lenient sentences are certain to anger China, which sharply criticized the protests.

The case in question concerned the trio’s decision to storm a public plaza outside Hong Kong’s legislative headquarters on Sept. 26, 2014 to demand the right to vote in elections for the Chief Executive, as Hong Kong’s top official is called. (The position is currently decided by an electoral college widely seen as sympathetic to Beijing, which rules over the semiautonomous territory.) The assembly precipitated the largest pro-democracy demonstration on Chinese soil since the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing in 1989.

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Wong and Chow were found guilty last month of participating in an unlawful assembly; Law was found guilty of inciting one. At the time, many here worried that the activists would face imprisonment.

“It’s good news,” Wong told TIME, regarding the relatively lenient sentences. “In the future, I’ll still continue to engage in civil disobedience to fight for democracy.”

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