Hong Kong protests student leaders go on trial

Joshua Wong (R), the teenage face of Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement which brought parts of the city to a standstill in 2014, listens with fellow Hong Kong student leader Alex Chow during a press conference in Taipei on 17 January 2016. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Joshua Wong (right) and Alex Chow (left) were among the prominent faces of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement

Three prominent student leaders in Hong Kong have gone on trial for their roles in 2014's mass pro-democracy protests.

Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law pleaded not guilty to charges of taking part, and inciting others to take part, in an unlawful assembly.

The three are accused of breaking into a government compound during a student protest in September 2014.

Images of them being forcibly removed by police, and allegations of abuse, sparked huge demonstrations.

The trial is expected to last for a week.

'No political prosecution'

The trial has prompted an expression of concern from the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China which monitors human rights development.

Its chairman, Chris Smith, said the trial was "nothing more than political muscle flexing, targeting those who dared to stand up for freedom and democracy."

On Monday the Hong Kong government responded saying: "When making a prosecutorial decision, the Department (of Justice) does not take into account any political considerations and there is no question of political prosecution whatsoever."

It added that the commission's remarks were "inappropriate" as the legal case was ongoing, and added that "no foreign governments" should intervene in Hong Kong trials.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Nathan Law (right) also faces charges

In September 2014, tens of thousands occupied major streets in the city's Central district in the weeks following the students' protest and brought the city to a standstill, in the Occupy Central protests.

Protesters were demanding free elections for the city's next leader amid a pro-democracy movement, also known as the Umbrella Movement.

Nearly two years on from the protests, the city is still seeing simmering tensions amid wariness of Beijing's growing influence.

Earlier this month clashes broke out in the Mong Kok district after police attempted to clear illegal hawkers, seen as integral to local culture.

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