HONG KONG (Reuters) – A former rising star in the radical youth opposition in Hong Kong was sentenced to six years in prison on Monday for rioting and attacks on police, one of the city's harshest sentences against a Democratic activist in recent years.
Edward Leung, 27 , one of the leaders of a movement that advocated Hong Kong's independence from China, had been convicted of unrest in a 2016 night protest that turned violent. He had pleaded guilty to badaulting a police officer.
About 130 people, mostly policemen, were injured when masked demonstrators threw bricks and set fire to garbage cans to vent their anger against what they considered an invasion of mainland China into the city's autonomy and freedoms.
It was not immediately clear if Leung would appeal the ruling.
Leung seemed calm to hear Superior Court Judge Anthea Pang announce the sentence, while murmurs of disbelief spread through a crowd of around 150 activists and supporters watching a live broadcast outside the courtroom .
Pang condemned the "severe violence" of the riots, which he said had caused danger to those who were in the place, and who justified the imposition of a strict dissuasive sentence.
"The court does not allow livelihoods or political disputes to be expressed through acts of violence," he said.
Two other defendants in the case, Lo Kin-man and Wong Ka-kui, were imprisoned 7 and 3.5 years respectively for unrest.
Leung has supported the open secession of Hong Kong from China given the perceived erosion by Beijing of the "one country, two systems" principle that gives the city a high degree of autonomy since it was handed over from the British government to Chinese 1997.
politician, then a philosophy student at the University of Hong Kong, rose to public prominence after violent protests, and a nomination for a public office during a by-election for a legislative council seat that year. He was banned from running for another election later that year.
China has repeatedly criticized the independence movement, fearing that the idea will develop on the continent. President Xi Jinping warned last year that any attempt to endanger China's sovereignty would be an act that goes through a "red line."
Although the court case does not directly address the issue of independence, the sentence is likely to be interpreted as a broader warning against the city's radical young activists.
Leung's sentence came a week after two other pro-independence activists and former legislators were sentenced to a month in prison for illegally meeting in the legislature while still in public office.
Information of Venus Wu; Additional reports by Holly Chik; Edition by James Pomfret, Paul Tait and Michael Perry