The 2016 unrest in the Mong Kok district began after activists fought with the police over fears that city inspectors were planning to shut down unlicensed vendors selling traditional snacks during the Chinese New Year holiday. At one point, a police officer fired two live rounds into the air, which the officer said was meant as a warning in order to protect a fallen colleague.
Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, said he had tried unsuccessfully in the 1990s to overhaul the public order ordinance that includes rioting offenses out of concern that vague language could be abused.
“It is disappointing to see that the legislation is now being used politically to place extreme sentences on the pan-democrats and other activists,” Mr. Patten said in a statement distributed by Hong Kong Watch, a rights group based in London.
With the sentencing of the three protesters on Monday, a total of 25 people have received a total of more than 71 years in prison in relation to the 2016 riot, according to a tally by Kong Tsung-gan, an activist and writer.
Dozens of Hong Kong activists have also been convicted of offenses that occurred during the 2014 Umbrella Movement protests. Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal threw out the prison sentences of three Umbrella Movement leaders in February while affirming tough sentencing guidelines for future incidents that “cross the line of acceptability.”