(Photo from Joshua Wong's Facebook)
Along with 2 more pro-democracy student activists, Joshua Wong was handed a community service punishment by the Hong Kong Court for their involvement in the Yellow Umbrella Movement in 2014 that constituted an act of unlawful assembly. However, the Secretary of Justice in Hong Kong claimed that the punishment was unduly lenient and sought to impose harsher sentences on the students. The Secretary succeeded as their sentences were increased to at least 6 months. This led to a dramatic change not only in terms of the students’ liberties but also their political futures as their sentences mean that they will not be eligible to stand for local election for the next half-decade. Indeed, this is an unusual appeal by the Hong Kong government. It inevitably leads the public to wonder whether it was politically-motivated to prohibit the students from playing any further part in shaping Hong Kong’s politics. This is especially so after Beijing has been continually tightening its political grip on Hong Kong and declared in its White Paper that judges should be patriotic to their countries.
A questionable quote by Gerald Seymour – ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ – seems to be lingering about as a group of senior foreign lawyers have recently condemned the jailing of three young political activists as ‘a serious threat’ to the rule of law in Hong Kong. In the eyes of the lawyers, the jail sentence has jeopardised the ‘one country, two systems’ principle under which Hong Kong is governed. The restive 79- day Occupy pro-democracy sit-ins of 2014 has, however, suggested an unfortunate irony – that the three young political activists are in fact ‘a serious threat’ to social harmony. In which case, can two wrongs make a right?
We all see the world through a prism of our own. Whether or not the jail sentence was just is a contingent conundrum that requires one to make a judgment call. The atrocities in our history have created a price tag for democracy where discount has no stance yet a violation of the law does not appear to fall within the ambit of the price tag. Hence, one must bear in mind that the scope, sophistication and sovereignty of the law are to be duly respected.