Edward Leung, a prominent Hong Kong politician who advocated ‘separation’ between the former British colony and mainland China, was released after serving a six-year prison sentence for ‘rioting’ during the unrest of 2016 in Mong Kok.
A former spokesperson for the now disbanded Hong Kong indigenous group, Leung was released from Shek Pik prison on Lantau Island around 3 a.m. Wednesday.
“I was released this morning and returned home safely with my family,” Leung said in a post on his Facebook page.
“As required by law, I am subject to a supervision order upon my release,” he wrote. “I have to lay low and deactivate my social media accounts.”
His family later issued a warning to supporters not to try to visit Leung and announced the deletion of Leung’s Facebook account, which was unavailable Wednesday evening local time.
Leung was sentenced to six years in prison in 2018 for “rioting” and “assaulting a police officer” during the 2016 “Fishball Revolution” clashes in Mong Kok.
Hong Kong lawyer and former lawmaker Siu Tsz-man said supervision orders are sometimes issued to released prisoners involved in violent crimes, including murder and manslaughter, and require the former prisoner to remain in contact with surveillance officers and to stay in a stable residence.
But Siu said the order to stay out of the spotlight was unprecedented.
“I’ve never heard of this before,” Siu said. “My staff have never heard of a supervision order under which the person is not allowed to give interviews to the media.”
Siu declined to say whether the order was appropriate without knowing the details of the case.
“The purpose of a supervision order is not to confine someone to a certain place and not let them go,” he said.
Some have drawn parallels between Leung’s release and the continued checks on released political prisoners in mainland China.
Hong Kong news commentator Johnny Lau said the treatment of prominent Chinese dissidents has varied greatly in the past, depending on the level of political sensitivity of their cases as perceived by the Communist Party of China (CCP). ) in power.
Mainland human rights lawyer Wang Yu said mainland Chinese authorities often negotiate terms with released dissidents, including telling them to shut up after their release.
“It can be done through the detention center, the courts, the local police department or the state security police, or even neighborhood committees,” Wang told RFA. “Anyone can be commissioned as a stability keeping officer.”
“These agreements may or may not involve something in writing.”
Fellow rights lawyer Bao Longjun said Leung’s experience shows that Hong Kong has gradually moved away from the rule of law.
“The Hong Kong government’s continued expansion of how it interprets and implements [existing laws] seriously violated the rule of law and the interpretation of freedom of expression as granted by the constitution,” Bao told RFA.
Video footage of the riots showed a large crowd throwing bricks and other objects at riot police, who responded with pepper spray and batons, injuring an unknown number of people. Others set fire to debris in the street, while business owners reported property damage.
Judge Anthea Pang said in delivering her sentencing that “political pleas” could never justify violence. Leung, a by-election candidate for the localist group Hong Kong Indigenous at the time, said he went to the scene in an attempt to act as a buffer zone in the clashes, but later admitted to giving in to anger.
Hong Kong’s former colonial governor, Lord Patten of Barnes, criticized Leung’s sentencing as politically motivated at the time, saying public order legislation was used politically under the CCP regime to mete out extreme punishments. to Democratic politicians and other activists.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.