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Hong Kong Protest Leaders Avoid Jail Time


Three Hong Kong student protest leaders, from left, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow walk out from a magistrate's court in Hong Kong, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016.

Three Hong Kong student protest leaders, from left, Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow walk out from a magistrate's court in Hong Kong, Monday, Aug. 15, 2016.

Three leaders of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in 2014 were sentenced on Monday. All three avoided jail time.

A judge sentenced Joshua Wong, 19, to 120 hours of community service. Nathan Law, 23, was ordered to perform 80 hours.

The most famous leader of the protests, 19-year-old Alex Chow, was sentenced to three weeks in prison. But his sentence was suspended for a year while he attends school in Britain.

The three student activists entered a fenced-off area of Hong Kong’s government offices in September 2014. They were protesting Chinese government plans to restrict elections in Hong Kong. Police detained the young men and other protesters.

The arrests led to a massive demonstration along major Hong Kong streets. The protest shut down much of the territory for 79 days.

Judge June Cheung said she handed down light sentences because the three men had no previous criminal history. She said the court also felt the activists did not mean to harm anyone else or to help themselves by their actions.

“The court believes the three defendants are expressing their views and demands genuinely out of their political beliefs or their concern for society,” the judge said.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The territory has autonomy from China, but the government in Beijing has refused to grant full democracy.

Pro-democracy activists have expressed concerns that China is moving to reduce personal freedoms in Hong Kong.

The three activists spoke outside court after the sentences were announced. Chow said the protests showed that the people “are advocating self-determination, or even Hong Kong independence.”

“It is out of their frustration and their hope for a better Hong Kong, a more democratic Hong Kong, a more just Hong Kong,” he said.

Wong promised to keep pushing for political reforms in Hong Kong. He said by taking part in non-violent protests, he can show his “commitment and persistence to fight for human rights, democracy and freedom in Hong Kong.”

I’m Ashley Thompson.

Richard Green reported this story for VOANews.com. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

sit-in n. protest in which people stay in one spot and refuse to leave until their demands are met

tear gasn. gas that makes people’s eyes hurt, used by police or military to control crowds

assemblyn. group gathered in a place for a common purpose

benefitv. to be useful or helpful

genuinelyadv. in a truthful way

autonomy – n. the right of a country or group to govern itself

advocate – v. express support for a cause

persistence – n. continue to do or pursue something

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