Vastavam web: Nine protesters were jailed in Hong Kong today after being found guilty of rioting during the “Fishball Revolution” clashes with police two years ago, the latest in a series of legal actions against demonstrators.Aged from their late teens to over 70 years old, they were handed sentences ranging from 28 months to over four years for their involvement in the city’s worst violence for decades.
The 2016 demonstrations were triggered by official attempts to remove illegal hawkers from the bustling Mong Kok commercial district during Lunar New Year celebrations.They were led by activists seeking more autonomy from Beijing, as fears grow that Hong Kong’s freedoms and identity are under threat from Chinese authorities and the city’s pro-China local government.
As the unrest escalated, police fired warning shots in the air as protesters hurled bricks torn up from pavements and set rubbish alight.Eight of the defendants jailed Thursday had pleaded not guilty to rioting charges, while one had pleaded guilty. Another young defendant, who also pleaded not guilty, was sent to a training centre and an 11th had absconded.Hong Kong’s most prominent localist activist and pro-independence campaigner Edward Leung, who is accused of being one of the ringleaders of the Mong Kok protests, will be sentenced next month after being found guilty of rioting at the city’s High Court.
Leung could face up to 10 years in prison.The violent protests contrasted with the largely peaceful pro-democracy Umbrella Movement rallies of late 2014, which brought some busy streets to a standstill for more than two months.Three Umbrella Movement leaders were jailed for up to eight months for their role in the rallies, although those sentences were later quashed.