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Statement by Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler on the sentencing of three pro‑democracy activists and leading figures in the peaceful Occupy Central protests in 2014 to several months in prison

18.08.2017

Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (18 August) on the sentencing of three pro‑democracy activists and leading figures in the peaceful Occupy Central protests in 2014 to several months in prison:

We were very concerned to learn of yesterday’s sentence against three pro‑democracy activists in Hong Kong. The sentence sends a negative message against freedom of opinion, and we see a danger that it will deter others from political activities in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. As a result of this and other sentences during the past weeks, a large number of pro‑democracy activists now have a criminal record and lose their passive voting right for the next five years. A large part of the young population thus loses its voice and the opportunity of being represented politically.

We are particularly concerned about the decidedly political wording of the judgement, which creates doubts about the independence of the judiciary. We will follow further developments very closely and hope that further avenues of appeal will prove the independence of the judiciary in Hong Kong.

Background Information:

On 17 August, three internationally renowned student leaders and co‑initiators of the peaceful Occupy Central mass demonstrations of 2014 – Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow – were sentenced to between six and eight months in prison by the Court of Appeal. They had been sentenced to community service or a suspended prison sentence by a trial court in August 2016. This new conviction after they have served their first sentence may violate Article 14(7) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which also applies in Hong Kong and by which no one can be tried or punished again for the same offence.

The current sentence means that all three now hold a criminal record and lose their passive voting right for five years.

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