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Hong Kong jails three democracy activists over anti-China protests

Hong Kong (dpa) - A Hong Kong appeals court on Thursday sentenced three student leaders and democracy activists to prison terms for their part in anti-China protests in 2014.

Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were sentenced to jail for six months, eight months and seven months, respectively, after the appeals court reviewed the lighter sentences they were given last year.

"They can silence protests, remove us from the legislature and lock

us up. But they will not win the hearts and minds of Hong Kongers,"

said Wong on Twitter after the verdict.

The review is one of the latest cases brought by the Hong Kong government, which is seeking harsher penalties for the protesters, reflecting a toughening stance against dissent in the China-governed territory.

The 79-day "Umbrella Revolution" that saw three of Hong Kong's busiest thoroughfares occupied by protesters and the centre of the city shut down was a result of China's decision in August 2014 to only allow pre-selected candidates to run for the top official post of chief executive.

In August 2016, Wong and Law were convicted of unlawful assembly and sentenced to community service. Chow was found guilty of inciting people to join the protests and was handed a three-week suspended jail term.

The three judges granted them shorter sentences by a month to two

months for having already served hours of community service.

Jonathan Man, a lawyer for Law and Chow, said: "It's the initial view that they will appeal."

Agnes Chow, a spokeswoman for Wong and Law's political party, said the students had "exhausted every possible means within the establishment before resorting to civil disobedience as an attempt

to engage in a dialogue with the government."

She called the Justice Department's comparison of the Umbrella Movement with a riot "an immense humiliation to all the participants in the movement," and stressed their dedication to non-violence.

Amnesty International said the prosecution was "shameful."

"It will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and people's right to peaceful assembly," said William Nee, Amnesty's China researcher.

"It signals to the population this might happen to them."

Hong Kong's Justice Department said in a statement Thursday that the trio had broken the law with "disorderly and intimidating behaviour" and were convicted fairly.

Getting jail sentences of more than three months means the activists will not be eligible to run for office in Hong Kong for five years.

Wong, who is just shy of his 21st birthday - the age at which residents are permitted to run for office, has said publicly he wants to run for a seat in the city's legislature.

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