Hong Kong’s top court on Tuesday granted a bid by three young democracy activists including Joshua Wong to appeal a prison sentence related to their involvement in huge 2014 pro-democracy protests in the Chinese-controlled city.
The decision gives Wong and fellow activists Nathan Law and Alex Chow one last chance to fight the prison terms for their roles in an unlawful assembly that sparked the protests.
The three were sentenced to prison in August after the justice secretary won a legal challenge overturning earlier, more lenient sentences letting them avoid jail time. The move raised concerns that the city’s independent judiciary was being undermined — part of broader tensions over Beijing’s increasingly strained relationship with Hong Kong, which includes calls for independence on college campuses and football fans booing China’s national anthem.
Wong, 21, and Law, 24, were bailed last month after serving two months so they could apply for an appeal. A three-member panel at the Court of Final Appeal approved their request and extended their bail Tuesday in a hearing lasting about half an hour.
Wong faces the remainder of his six month sentence and Law eight months if their appeals fail.
Chow, who was given seven months in the case, was set free on bail for the appeal hearing, which the court scheduled for January. He had not requested bail earlier.
Wong was still a teenager when he helped spearhead the protests three years ago against Beijing’s decisions to restrict elections for the city’s top leader. He’s the subject of a recent Netflix documentary that’s been submitted for Oscar consideration. He still faces sentencing in a separate case that could extend his time in prison.
Under the “one country, two systems” framework, Beijing promised to let Hong Kong maintain wide autonomy and civil liberties following its 1997 handover from Britain. Residents fear China’s communist leaders are backtracking on the pledge.