High-level Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong will spend more than a year in jail for an unauthorized protest outside the police headquarters in June last year, a Hong Kong court has heard.
Wong said last week he expected to be jailed after admitting to hosting the event at the start of the city’s protest movement, which started with millions of people demonstrating against a bill on extradition before turning into a broader campaign for democracy.
At West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, the 24-year-old was sentenced to a total of 13.5 months in prison for organizing and instigating others to attend an illegal gathering outside the headquarters of the police in June 2019.
Activists Agnes Chow, 23, and Ivan Lam, 26, were sentenced to 10 months and 7 months respectively.
The judge, Wong Sze-lai, took Lam and Wong’s background into account, and said jail time was the only suitable option to deter others, local media reported.
The three were immediately jailed, and Chow’s request for bail pending an appeal was reportedly denied.
Wong had pleaded guilty to organizing and inciting, Lam to incitement and Chow to incitement and participation. Wong and Lam had initially intended to fight the charges, until announcing on the eve of the trial that they would plead guilty to some. Chow, who also faces potential National Security Act charges after being arrested in August, had already decided to plead guilty in hopes of a lesser sentence.
Before leaving court last week, Wong shouted, “Everyone stay in there – add some oil,” using a phrase of encouragement commonly heard during protests. As he was taken away on Wednesday, he shouted, “I’m going to hang on.”
The three men were denied bail after pleading and remanded in custody. Wong was held in solitary confinement after an x-ray showed a “shadow” in his stomach, according to a post on the activist’s social media page. Wong and Lam have been in jail previously, but this was the first time on remand for Chow, who turns 24 on Thursday. She recently said she was struggling mentally while in detention and was visibly distressed during Wednesday’s sentencing.
More than 10,000 protesters have been arrested in the wake of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, many on dubious charges of riots and unauthorized gatherings that did not stand up in court.
Chow and Wong rose to prominence during the 79-day “umbrella movement” protests in 2014 that demanded universal suffrage for Hong Kong people. Following the protests, Wong, Chow and their fellow activist now living in the UK, Nathan Law, co-founded the pro-democracy political party Demosisto. Its four candidates elected to the legislative council were disqualified for changing the oath of office when they tried to take their seats. The party was officially dissolved after the introduction of the National Security Law in June.
Wong and Chow are two of the most prominent figures in the pro-democracy movement. After Wong’s arrest in September, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he was “deeply concerned” and described him as “another example of Hong Kong authorities targeting activists”.
Wong maintained a provocative approach during the trial, saying last week, “I am convinced that neither the prison bars, nor the electoral ban, nor any other arbitrary power would prevent us from activism.”
He also urged people to focus on the plight of the “Hong Kong 12”, the group detained accused of attempting to illegally travel to Taiwan by boat in August. They have since been held in a mainland detention center, their families accusing the authorities of denying the group access to lawyers, visitors or medical treatment.
Chow, who renounced his British citizenship to run in the Hong Kong election, was one of the first Demosisto politicians not to run for office because the party advocated “self-determination.”
One of her most successful roles has been to bring international attention to Hong Kong’s democratic movement, aided by her fluency in English, Cantonese and Japanese. She has built huge success on social media in Japan in particular. Chow was arrested in August under the National Security Act on the vague suspicion of “collusion with foreign forces”.
At least 31 people have been arrested under Beijing’s National Security Law in late June, which outlaws a wide range of acts such as sedition, secession, foreign collusion and terrorism.