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Hong Kong pro-democracy activists sentenced to jail

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Hong Kong, April 24 (IANS) Four Hong Kong activists were sentenced to jail on Wednesday for their role in pro-democracy demonstrations.

Four others received suspended sentences while one had her sentence deferred until June so she can undergo brain surgery, the BBC reported.

The nine activists were found guilty in April for their involvement in the 2014 ‘Umbrella Movement’ when they demanded the right for the territory to pick its leaders.

Judge Johnny Chan handed down the sentences on Wednesday, citing the "excessive inconvenience and suffering" the movement caused.

Sociology professor Chan Kin-man, 60, and law professor Benny Tai, 54, both received 16-month prison sentences. Baptist minister Chu Yiu-ming, 75, also received a 16-month sentence but it was suspended for two years.

The three are seen as the founders of the movement that galvanised protesters in their campaign of civil disobedience.

The protests started in reaction to a decision made by China that it would allow direct elections in 2017, but only from a list of candidates pre-approved by Beijing.

In 2014, the three activists’ calls for non-violent civil disobedience joined with student-led protests and snowballed into the massive demonstrations.

Tens of thousands of people camped in the streets and demanded the right to fully-free elections.

The protests became known as the ‘Umbrella Movement’ after people used umbrellas to shield themselves from pepper spray fired by police to disperse the crowd.

Protesters accused the Chinese government of breaking its promise to allow full democracy in Hong Kong, and of encroaching more and more on the region.

But the number of protesters dwindled to just a few hundred as the weeks dragged on and they ultimately failed to achieve their goal.