Hong Kong's most prominent pro-democracy student leader Joshua Wong has said he does not regret his role in the "Umbrella Movement", which protested against Beijing's grip on the city's electoral system, despite being slapped with a community service sentence.
According to The Guardian, the outspoken Christian teen faced up to five years in jail for leading thousands of students in 2014 to demonstrate against the Chinese government's refusal to grant democratic concessions to the territory.
Wong, along with two other students, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, were convicted last month of unlawfully entering a fenced off area outside Hong Kong's government headquarters during the 79-day protests.
However, on Monday, Magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan instead sentenced Wong to 80 hours of community service order of 80 hours, and Law to 120 hours, both for "unlawful assembly". Chow was given a three week sentence with one year suspension for "incitement", according to the South China Morning Post.
"If their actions did not originate from personal gain or intent to harm others, the court should not only consider their actions and the consequences, but also try to understand the motivations behind their offence by adopting a more lenient and understanding attitude," she said.
"The three defendants' actions were undoubtedly reckless, but they were not very violent nor intentional in harming security guards or police officers," she continued. "They only wanted to enter the east wing forecourt, the Civic Square with a historical and symbolic meaning that they genuinely believe in, to form a circle and chant slogans."
Nevertheless, Wong said on Twitter that he did not regret his involvement: "I was given 80 hours of community service for unlawful assembly. I will not regret for my commitment in the Umbrella Movement."
He later told the SCMP he would continue with civil disobedience movements to fight for greater human rights, democracy and freedom in the city.
"There may be a serious price in the future," Wong said. "I may go to jail but I will not regret what I have done."
As earlier reported, Wong, who spent nights jail after arrests over the demonstrations and endured a lengthy hunger strike, was raised in a Christian family and has in the past told multiple outlets that his faith is the driving forced behind his activism.
Born into a middle-class Christian family and educated at United Christian College (Kowloon East), a private Christian middle school, Wong's passion for positive change started at an early age, as his father began taking him to poorer areas of Hong Kong when he was a young child to impress upon him the need for social reform.
"He told me that I should care for the abandoned in the city. They had not heard of the gospel, and were living solitary and hard lives," he wrote in a blog, according to the SCMP.
"Political reform is the core problem for every issue," said Wong. "Everyone knows that under the Chinese Communist party, there is a lack of possibility to fight [for] true universal suffrage in the end . . . but students should stand on the front line in every century."
In April, Wong and Law launched a new political party called Demosisto, vowing to press on with their fight to wrest democratic concessions from China's authoritarian leaders. Next month, Law plans to stand as a candidate in elections for Hong Kong's legislative council.