Hong Kong democracy activists walk free in appeal victory

From left: Hong Kong democracy activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were jailed in August last year for their role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement mass pro-democracy protests. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Hong Kong democracy activists walk free in appeal victory

HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s leading democracy activists won an appeal against their jail terms at the city’s highest court Tuesday in a case seen as a test for the independence of the city’s judiciary, which some fear is under pressure from Beijing.
Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were jailed in August last year for their role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement mass pro-democracy protests, after Hong Kong’s government pushed for harsher sentences.
A lower court had given Wong and Law community service orders and Chow a suspended sentence. But after the government’s intervention they were jailed for between six and eight months by the Court of Appeal.
All three activists were later bailed pending their appeal.
Chief justice Geoffrey Ma said Tuesday that the terms given to the trio were “significantly more severe” than the range previously handed down for unlawful assembly offenses.
Handing down the judgment in the Court of Final Appeal he also said had been “inappropriate” to hand the sentences down retrospectively.
The government’s move to seek jail sentences for the activists was seen as further evidence of Beijing’s growing influence over the semi-autonomous city, with Chinese authorities particularly riled by the emergence of activists calling for independence for Hong Kong.
Wong and Law’s political party Demosisto wants self-determination for the city.


Pelosi scrapped Afghan trip after Trump ‘leaked’ details

Updated 30 min 34 sec ago
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Pelosi scrapped Afghan trip after Trump ‘leaked’ details

WASHINGTON: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday excoriated her political nemesis, President Donald Trump, for “outing” her commercial trip to Afghanistan after barring her from using a military aircraft, forcing her to scrap it entirely over security concerns.
The brawl between the no-nonsense Republican leader and the take-no-prisoners Democrat — who is now just two heartbeats away from the presidency — is the latest round in their shutdown showdown.
The federal government has been shuttered for four weeks over Trump’s insistence that a wider budget measure include billions of dollars for a wall on the border with Mexico — and Pelosi’s refusal to do so.
Their spat spilled into the diplomatic arena on Thursday when, after Pelosi suggested that Trump postpone his State of the Union address until the government reopens, the president grounded her military flight.
Pelosi accused Trump of being “very irresponsible” in breaching security protocol.
“We had a report from Afghanistan that the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous because it’s just a signal to the bad actors that we’re coming,” she told reporters.
The administration strongly denies that it “leaked” any plans about the trip to a war zone.
“The idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is a flat-out lie,” a senior White House official said.
The US government shutdown, which has left about 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck, is now the longest in the country’s history — and there is no sign of a compromise.
The Office of Management and Budget reportedly issued a memorandum saying that “under no circumstance during a government shutdown” can a congressional delegation use government aircraft for travel.
However, Republican Representative Lee Zeldin led a delegation to Iraq and other countries since the shutdown began.
Pelosi’s office sounded off on the administration’s handling of her trip, which had not been announced for security reasons.
The State Department released an updated assessment stressing that Trump’s announcement of the Pelosi travel “had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said.
“This morning, we learned that the administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.”
Democratic lawmakers have expressed outrage.
“As a former member of the Intelligence Committee who has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan, disclosing ANY Members’ travel into a war zone is disgraceful and dangerous,” tweeted House Democrat Jan Schakowsky.
“This is unprecedented.”
Trump lashed out at Pelosi once again on Twitter, asking why she and other Democrats would leave the country “on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid.”
And then his re-election campaign team released a tongue-in-cheek shutdown-related campaign fundraising request.
For a contribution of $20.20, a reference to the next election year, the campaign told supporters it would send a fake red brick to Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — to build a wall.