Police and pro-establishment lawmakers have welcomed a six-year jail term handed down to Edward Leung for rioting in Mong Kok in 2016, but a supporter of the 27-year-old, former legislator Leung Kwok-hung, insists no riot had even taken place.
Leung Kwok-hung, known popularly as Longhair, was at the High Court as the prominent localist and two others were given their jail terms on Monday morning.
The former lawmaker from the League of Social Democrats said the punishments were too heavy and amounted to political persecution.
"I don't think there was a riot in Hong Kong in 2016. It was a political statement from the CE at that time, CY Leung, who claimed that there was a riot," Leung Kwok-hung said.
"After that, the police and the legal department changed their stance and prosecuted those people involved in the... in the conflict, with the charge of rioting. And now the judge claims that she needs to deal with a very severe riot. So I think it's wrong, the interpretation is wrong."
In a statement, former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten criticised the Public Order Ordinance's vague definitions that were being used against local activists.
"It is disappointing to see that the legislation is now being used politically to place extreme sentences on the pan-democrats and other activists," Patten said in the statement that the London-based Hong Kong Watch said was issued after Leung's sentencing.
The group's website also carried statements issued by Fiona Bruce MP, the head of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and barrister Geoffrey Nice QC, criticising the sentences.
Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung said that it's time to review the Public Order Ordinance. He said the public has feared since 1997 that the law would be used to target activists and opposition members.
But police chief inspector Tse Tsz-kwan welcomed the latest punishments over the Mong Kok clashes, noting the judge's comment that the defendants had committed a very serious offence that was both organised and premeditated.
Legislator Priscilla Leung, from the Business and Professionals Alliance, said she believed the public would be happy with the jail terms handed down.
"I think the prison sentences for these three defendants are long enough to serve as a deterrent effect for the future movements," she said.
"No matter how great your ideas and political thoughts are, you have to obey the laws in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has actually demonstrated the spirit of the rule of law by the sentences as well as the judgement."
DAB chairwoman Starry Lee agreed that deterrent sentences were required in this case, saying lenient punishments would have had a "very negative effect on society."
"The law is the law and using violence to destroy public order is a serious crime," Lee said.
No riot even took place, says Leung Kwok-hung
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