HK activist Joshua Wong jailed for 13 ½ months

Activists Joshua Wong (centre), 24, and Ivan Lam (left), 26, boarding a police van to head to court for their sentencing, in Hong Kong yesterday. The pair were prosecuted, alongside fellow activist Agnes Chow, 23, over a rally outside the city's poli
Activists Joshua Wong (centre), 24, and Ivan Lam (left), 26, boarding a police van to head to court for their sentencing, in Hong Kong yesterday. The pair were prosecuted, alongside fellow activist Agnes Chow, 23, over a rally outside the city's police headquarters last year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HONG KONG • Leading Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was jailed alongside two other young activists yesterday for taking part in last year's huge democracy protests as the crackdown on Beijing's critics gathers pace.

Wong, 24, was prosecuted alongside fellow activists Agnes Chow, 23, and Ivan Lam, 26, over a rally outside the police headquarters.

"The days ahead will be tough but we will hang in there," Wong shouted as he was led away. The three pleaded guilty to various charges including inciting an unlawful assembly.

Magistrate Wong Sze-lai said: "The defendants called on protesters to besiege the headquarters and chanted slogans that undermine the police force. Immediate imprisonment is the only appropriate option."

She sentenced Wong to 13 ½ months, Chow to 10 months, and Lam to seven months in jail.

Chow burst into tears when the sentence was read out.

Soon after the sentencing, Wong vowed to keep campaigning for democracy. "It's not the end of the fight," he wrote on his verified Twitter account in a message conveyed by lawyers.

Last year, Hong Kong was convulsed by seven straight months of huge and often violent rallies in which millions took to the streets.

Beijing has refused demands for universal suffrage and the authorities have pursued democracy supporters with criminal cases and a tough new security law.

The tactics have stifled the movement and restored a semblance of calm. But the financial hub remains deeply polarised, with many still seething against Beijing's growing hold on the semi-autonomous city.

Wong has already spent time in prison for leading democracy protests and has said he is prepared for more time behind bars.

"All these pains and sufferings would only strengthen our courage and conviction for democracy and justice," he wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Wong, Chow and Lam joined Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement when they were in their teens.

They organised successful rallies in 2012 against plans to make Hong Kong's education system more "patriotic". And they played prominent roles two years later in the Umbrella Movement - a 79-day peaceful occupation by a largely student-led campaign calling for universal suffrage.

Leading figures from those protests, including Wong, were jailed and the democracy movement struggled in the years after.

But it exploded onto the streets once more in June last year, sparked by plans to allow extraditions to China and concerns over its opaque legal system.

Millions took to the streets over the next seven months in a deliberately leaderless campaign mostly organised via social media, calling for greater democracy and police accountability.

Figures such as Wong and Chow joined some of the protests and also used their celebrity status over the years to lobby for international sanctions, a move that infuriated Beijing with state media casting them as traitors.

Earlier this summer, Beijing imposed a broad security law which ramps up its direct control over the city and outlaws certain political views. More than 10,000 people have been arrested over the last 18 months, and most of Hong Kong's leading activists and opposition figures face prosecution.

"The suppression is not only targeting prominent figures. It comes from all directions and is going after all kinds of people," Mr Isaac Cheng, a friend of Wong's and former vice-chairman of their now-defunct political party Demosisto, told Agence France-Presse.

Chow is being investigated under the security law for allegedly "conspiring with foreign forces" by pushing for sanctions.

Wong is among another group of activists being prosecuted for a vigil earlier this year marking the anniversary of Beijing's 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

Beijing says security has been restored in the city.

But Mr Cheng described a sense of despondency among many younger Hong Kongers. "We thought this place belongs to us, but it now turns out to be a crime if a student thinks differently from the government," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2020, with the headline 'HK activist Joshua Wong jailed for 13 ½ months'. Print Edition | Subscribe