Supporters of jailed activist Edward Leung, gather outside the High Court as Leung appeals against his conviction and sentence, in Hong Kong, China, October 9, 2019. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist appeals against sentence as more protests loom

(Reuters) – A Hong Kong pro-democracy activist jailed for six years for rioting in 2016 appeared in court on Wednesday to appeal against his sentence, as anti-government protests showed no signs of abating despite new emergency laws and widespread arrests.

Edward Leung, 27, one of the leaders of a movement advocating independence from China, and two other activists received the harshest sentences handed down to pro-democracy leaders since the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hundreds of Leung’s supporters gathered outside the city’s High Court and packed his courtroom on Wednesday, many wearing black masks in defiance of a ban on face masks invoked by authorities on Friday under colonial-era emergency laws.

Leung’s hearing could become the latest flashpoint for anti-government protesters who have staged four months of demonstrations, some massive and violent, against leader Carrie Lam’s administration.

Lam did not rule out asking Beijing for help in remarks on Tuesday as the Asian financial hub struggles to deal with protests that are damaging its economy.

More protests are expected on Wednesday and the coming week.

The former British colony is still recovering after a long weekend of violent protests that brought the city to a virtual standstill, with the unprecedented closure of its metro rail system, shops, ATMs, and mainland China banks.

What started as opposition to a now-withdrawn extradition bill has grown into a pro-democracy movement against what is seen as Beijing’s tightening grip on the city, which protesters say undermines a “one country, two systems” formula promised when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule.

China dismisses such accusations, saying foreign governments, including Britain and the United States, have fanned anti-China sentiment.

The protests pose the biggest popular challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012 and are Hong Kong’s worst political crisis since the 1997 handover.

HUGE COMMUTER QUEUES

The city’s metro operator MTR Corp 00666.HK, which carries about 5 million passengers a day, said on Wednesday some stations would remain closed due to damage and it would be shutting services early again at 8 p.m. (1200 GMT), more than four hours earlier than normal.

The closure of some stations on Wednesday resulted in massive queues of people waiting for shuttle buses during the morning rush hour, with some people choosing to walk kilometers to the nearest station.

MTR Corp was forced to shut down after arson attacks on Friday night, an unprecedented move that largely paralyzed transportation. There were only partial operations during the weekend and limited services through the start of the week.

Hong Kong’s economy has been hit hard by the protests, with many businesses and stores repeatedly closing as the Asian financial hub faces its first recession in a decade.

Lam warned on Tuesday the city’s businesses faced “a severe winter season”, while a police spokesman said more than 200 shops and public utilities had been damaged since Friday’s violent clashes.

(Reuters) – A Hong Kong pro-democracy activist jailed for six years for rioting in 2016 appeared in court on Wednesday to appeal against his sentence, as anti-government protests showed no signs of abating despite new emergency laws and widespread arrests.

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