Edward Leung, a leading pro-independence activist and the face of Hong Kong’s independence movement, was jailed for six years on Monday for his role in the 2016 protests that marked the worst civil unrest to hit the former British colony for decades.
Leung, 27 and four others faced trial for their involvement in the protests that broke out during Lunar New Year, triggered by authorities’ attempt to clear street hawkers in Mong Kok. It was later dubbed the “Fishball Revolution”.
He is a former convener and a leading member of Hong Kong Indigenous, a pro-independence group, and has been an advocate of independence for Hong Kong, which became part of China in 1997 after more than a century of British rule.
The young activist had been put on trial since January over the night of chaos that unfolded across Mong Kok in February 2016. He had earlier been found guilty of rioting in a 2016 overnight protest that turned violent. He had pleaded guilty to assaulting a police officer at the start of the trial and was sentenced to one year in jail on that count.
During the 2016 protests, about 130 people, mostly police, were injured when masked protesters tossed bricks and set trash cans alight to vent their anger against what they saw as mainland Chinese encroachment on the city’s autonomy and freedoms.
At least 16 people have already been jailed in connection with the 2016 protests, with terms of up to four years and nine months for a man convicted of rioting and arson.
It wasn’t immediately known if Leung would appeal against the prison sentence.
Reacting to the conviction, “Umbrella Movement” leader Joshua Wong tweeted that Leung’s sentence as “the harshest imposed on an opposition activist since 1997”.
China has repeatedly slammed the independence movement, and President Xi Jinping warned last year against any attempt to endanger China’s sovereignty.
Leung’s sentence came just one week after two other pro-independence activists, and former lawmakers were convicted and sentenced for assembling illegally in the legislature while still in public office.