Hong Kong activist who invents a banned independence slogan released from prison | Hong Kong

Hong Kong activist Edward Leung, who invented the now-banned slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our time”, has been released from prison and placed under strict supervision after spending four years behind bars.

The prominent independence activist said in a statement on his Facebook page – a few hours after his reported release at 3am on Wednesday – that he was back with his family.

“As required by law, I am subject to a surveillance order upon release,” he wrote in the post, adding that he would stop using social media and would not take any media interviews or visits.

“After four years, I want to cherish this precious time to be reunited with my family and resume a normal life with them,” Leung said, thanking his supporters for their concern and love. His Facebook account was deleted an hour later.

Leung was a spokesman for Hong Kong Indigenous, a pro-independence group in the city that was outspoken about “localism” and the need to preserve a distinct Hong Kong identity.

In 2018, the 30-year-old activist was convicted of assaulting a police officer and rioting in 2016 during what is now known as the Fishball Revolution. The riots began when authorities tried to crack down on unauthorized shopkeepers selling street food during the 2016 New Year holidays in Mong Kok, but clashed with protesters who opposed their actions as an attack on local traditions.

A rioter tries to throw bricks at police in Hong Kong's Mong Kok district on Tuesday, February 9, 2016. Hong Kong's New Year's celebration fell into chaotic scenes as protesters and police clashed across a street market selling fish balls and other local holiday delicacies.  (AP Photo / Vincent Yu)
A rioter tries to throw bricks at police in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok district on Tuesday, February 9, 2016. Hong Kong’s New Year’s celebration fell into chaotic scenes as protesters and police clashed across a street market selling fish balls and other local holiday delicacies. (AP Photo / Vincent Yu) Photo: Vincent Yu / AP

Originally sentenced to six years in prison, Leung had his sentence reduced by two years for good behavior, according to local media.

Leung’s release comes amid repression of political disagreement in Hong Kong, where authorities have arrested a majority of Hong Kong’s outspoken pro-democracy activists over the past two years. Many of the city’s prominent activists are behind bars or have fled abroad to continue their activism.

Leung is known for inventing the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our time” for his election campaign when he tried to run for a seat in the Legislative Assembly in 2016. He was later disqualified.

The term became a popular protest slogan during the protests in 2019, but authorities have since banned the slogan, saying it has secrecy connotations that are illegal under the National Security Act (NSL) implemented in 2020. NSL bans secession, subversion , terrorism and foreign cooperation to intervene in city affairs.

Leung advocated so-called powerful opposition to political violence in his campaigns, which were seen as a polarizing stance and drew opposition from the city’s more traditional pro-democracy camp.

But his stance on a more active form of resistance also attracted the attention of young voters, and many of his ideas, such as “leaderless” protests, were later used in the months of anti-government protests in 2019.

In a post on Leung’s Facebook page on Tuesday – a day before his release – Leung’s family urged supporters to let Leung “reunite with his family” and urged supporters to prioritize their own safety.

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