Pro-democracy protesters react after riot police shot tear gas during a rally in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, China, on December 24, 2019. Four student leaders were sentenced to two years in prison after authorities accused for supporting violence in 2021 as an outgrowth of the long-running protests. File Photo by Jerome Favre/EPA-EFE
Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Four former Hong Kong student leaders were sentenced to two years in prison on Monday for inciting violence after earlier pleading guilty to praising the knife attack on a police officer in 2021 as part of a plea deal.
The four former University of Hong Kong students included former student union president Charles Kwok Wing-ho; ex-student union council chairman Kinson Cheung King-sang; former residential hall representative Chris Todorovski Shing-hang; and ex-arts association representative Anthony YungChung-hei.
A more serious charge of advocating terrorism was dropped as part of the plea deal. A judge said the students' actions were in "open defiance" of Beijing-decreed national security laws implemented in response to long-running pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Judge Adriana Noelle Tse Ching accused the four of glorifying violence and abusing their powers as student leaders by a student union council meeting to "publish the inciting words."
The students were involved in passing a resolution voted on by the student body to mourn the death of Leung Kin-fai, who killed himself shortly after stabbing a police officer outside a mall in Causeway Bay on the anniversary of British to Chinese rule.
The judge said while the resolution was passed during an emergency meeting, she charged it was premeditated to support violence.
"I disagree that their roles [were] markedly different," Tse said. "They each had their role to play, without which the resolution would never have been passed or had the same impact."
Tse said that the "outstanding" academic backgrounds of the students were not factored in as mitigating factors in the sentencing.