HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong activist Edward Leung, who coined the now-banned slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time,” was released from prison on Wednesday after serving four years behind bars for a 2016 protest. .
Leung was a prominent independence activist and spokesperson for Hong Kong Indigenous, an independence group in the city that was outspoken about “localism” and the need to preserve a distinct identity in Hong Kong.
In 2018, the 30-year-old activist was found guilty of assaulting a police officer and participating in riots during what is now known as the Fishball Revolution. The unrest began when authorities attempted to crack down on unlicensed hawkers selling street food during the 2016 Lunar New Year holiday in Mong Kok, but were met with protesters who objected to their actions as an attack against local traditions.
Originally sentenced to six years in prison, Leung had his sentence reduced by two years for good behavior, according to local media.
Leung’s release comes amid a crackdown on political dissent in Hong Kong, with authorities arresting the majority of Hong Kong’s outspoken pro-democracy activists over the past two years. Many of the city’s prominent activists are currently behind bars or have fled abroad to pursue their activism.
In a statement posted to his Facebook page early Wednesday morning, Leung said he had been released from prison and was back with his family.
“As required by law, I am under a supervision order upon my release,” he wrote in the post, adding that he would stop using social media and not take any interviews or visits. with the media.
“After four years, I want to cherish this precious time to be reunited with my family and resume a normal life with them,” Leung said, before thanking his supporters for their care and love.
Leung is known for coining the slogan “Free Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Time” for his election campaign, when he tried to run for a seat in the Legislative Assembly in 2016. He was later disqualified.
The phrase later became a popular protest slogan during the 2019 protests, but authorities have since banned the slogan, saying it had secessionist overtones which are illegal under the National Security Law which was implemented in 2020. The law prohibits secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign collusion to intervene in city affairs.
Leung advocated a so-called forceful resistance against political violence in his campaigns, which was seen as a polarizing opinion and drew opposition from the city’s more traditional pro-democracy camp.
However, his stance of a more active form of resistance also caught the attention of younger voters, and many of his ideas, such as “leaderless” protests, were later used during months of anti-government protests in 2019.
In a post on Leung’s Facebook page on Tuesday – a day before his release – Leung’s family urged supporters to let Leung “find his family” and urged supporters to prioritize their own safety.
The post also said that, following a legal notice, Leung’s Facebook page would be taken down and the content would be removed on January 19 to protect him.
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