They faced up to two years in jail for inspiring the largest civil disobedience movement in Hong Kong two years ago. But a local magistrate has issued less severe punishment to the three prominent student activists in light of more radical protests in the city.
Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow were convicted last month for their involvement in protests calling on the Chinese regime to allow greater democracy in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese city.
On Aug. 15, Hong Kong Magistrate June Cheung sentenced the three protest leaders to community service.
Wong, 19, was given 120 hours of community service for taking part in an unlawful assembly, while Law, 23, was sentenced to 80 hours for inciting people to join the assembly, according to the Associated Press.
Chow, 25, saw his initial sentence of 120 hours of community service changed to a three-week jail term suspended for a year because he is due to start a one-year master’s program at the London School of Economics in September. Chow was charged with inciting others to join an unlawful assembly.
Magistrate Cheung said that the sentencing accounted for the fact that the activists have no prior criminal convictions, and didn’t seek to hurt others or gain personally with their actions, according to the Associated Press.
Cheung also said that she decided against issuing heavier sentences because their actions were milder compared to political events in Hong Kong after the pro-democracy protest in 2014. Earlier this year, protesters in favor of having complete local autonomy started a violent riot in the popular commercial district of Mong Kok.
Outside the courtroom, Joshua Wong told reporters that he would “still commit civil disobedience through non-violent direct action to show my commitment and persistence to fight for human rights, democracy and freedom in Hong Kong,” according to the Associated Press.
Wong is the face of the 2014 pro-democracy protests, or the Umbrella Movement. On Sept. 26, 2014, Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow had climbed and entered a fenced-off courtyard beside Hong Kong’s legislature building to protest the Chinese regime’s decision to restrict elections for the city’s leader.
After the three were arrested by police, thousands of demonstrators gathered in the area to call for their release. On Sept. 28, police fired teargas into the crowd, an incident that sparked a massive street occupation and protest.
For 11 weeks, the protesters, mainly students, occupied three major thoroughfares in Hong Kong. Over a million Hongkongers were estimated to have joined the protests, according to a survey by a Hong Kong university.
Wong and Law have since entered politics to advance the ideals of the Umbrella Movement. Their party, Demosistō, is seeking a referendum on Hong Kong’s political future.