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Hong Kong Independence Activist Sentenced to Six-Year Prison Term

Edward Leung, a candidate from the Hong Kong Indigenous, attends a campaign during a Legislative Council by-election in Hong Kong, China February 28, 2016.

A prominent Hong Kong independence activist has been sentenced to six years in prison for taking part in violent street protests in 2016.

Edward Leung, who was convicted on a charge of rioting, was already in custody on a separate charge of assaulting a police officer during the February 2016 riots in the city's commercial Mong Kok district. Demonstrators hurled bricks at police officers and burned trash cans to protest China's tightening grip on Hong Kong's autonomy.

Two other defendants with Leung received jail sentences of seven and three-and-a-half years, respectively, for their roles in the Mong Kok riots.

The 27-year-old Leung emerged as a leader of Hong Kong's youth-driven independence movement after the massive 2014 pro-democracy "Umbrella Revolution" demanding fully free elections. Leung ran for a seat in the legislature in 2016, but was later barred from standing for office.

China regained control of Hong Kong from Britain in 1997. It established a "one country, two systems" formula that gave Hong Kong numerous freedoms, but Beijing has been tightening its grip in recent years, sparking the student-led pro-democracy and independence movements.