Hong Kong protests: Prominent activist Joshua Wong jailed over pro-democracy rally

Prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong has been jailed for 13 and a half months over an unlawful anti-government rally in 2019.

The 24-year-old’s sentencing on Wednesday is the toughest and most high-profile of an opposition figure this year.

Mr Wong’s long-time colleagues Agnes Chow, 23, and Ivan Lam, 26, were also jailed for a total of 10 and seven months.

The charges were linked to the same siege when thousands of protesters surrounded the police headquarters on 21 June to demand the government withdraw a now-shelved extradition bill.

The activists had previously pleaded guilty to the charges and faced a maximum of three years in prison.

Around 100 supporters gathered inside the court ahead of the sentencing, while a small group of pro-Beijing protesters rallied outside, calling for a harsher punishment.

“I know the coming days will be tougher. We will hang in there,” Wong shouted in court following the sentence.

In a statement through his lawyer, he said: “It’s not the end of the fight.

“Ahead of us is another challenging battleground. We’re now joining the battle in prison along with many brave protesters, less visible yet essential in the fight for democracy and freedom for Hong Kong.”

Mr Wong, who started his political activism as a 13-year-old schoolboy, is the secretary-general of pro-democracy organisation Demosisto with Ms Chow, which he set up as a late teen.

He and Chow rose to prominence during the “Umbrella Movement” of 2014 when they led a student movement against proposed reforms to Hong Kong’s electoral system which would have allowed Beijing to choose candidates.

The jail terms come as critics say the Beijing-backed government is intensifying a crackdown on Hong Kong’s opposition and wide-ranging freedoms guaranteed after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

Following the sentences, UK’s foreign minister Dominic Raab, said: “Prosecution decisions must be fair and impartial, and the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong must be upheld.”

Analysis by Tom Cheshire, Asia correspondent

Normally, we’d be asking whether the jailing of Wong, Chow and Lam would galvanise or intimidate protestors.

But right now there aren’t any protestors. A combination of strict COVID-19 regulations on gatherings and the wide-ranging national security law imposed by Beijing has kept people off the street.

Last year’s protests were deliberately styled as leaderless. But in this quiet period, figureheads are more necessary than before, especially in keeping the world’s attention – and Wong and Chow will be less visible from a prison cell.

But even when activists got to jail, their ideas can remain powerful. The phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times” was the unofficial, omnipresent slogan of last year’s protests – despite the fact that the man who coined it, Edward Leung, is serving a six year prison sentence.

That phrase is itself now banned – the Hong Kong government said uttering it could be an offence under the feared National Security Law. The space for dissent is shrinking and today, once again, it grew a little smaller.

Source: Read Full Article