A magistrate court in Hong Kong sentenced pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam to jail for their involvement in an unauthorised protest outside a police headquarters in June last year.
Wong, 24, and Hong Kong’s best-known activist internationally, received a sentence of 13 and a half months in jail, while Chow, 23, and Lam, 26, will be imprisoned for 10 and seven months respectively.
The activists were remanded in custody until Wednesday’s sentencing, with Wong placed in solitary confinement.
After pleading guilty to all charges last week, the three young activists were convicted of organising and taking part in an unauthorised assembly near police headquarters at the start of the pro-democracy protests in June last year.
“The defendants called on protesters to besiege the headquarters and chanted slogans that undermine the police force,” Magistrate Wong Sze-lai was quoted as saying by news agency AFP. “Immediate imprisonment is the only appropriate option.”
Chow is said to have burst into tears when the sentence was read out. Wong shouted “the days ahead will be tough but we will hang in there” as he was led away, according to reports.
In comments posted on Twitter via his lawyers, Wong added: “We’re now joining the battle in prison along with many brave protestors, less visible yet essential in the fight for democracy and freedom for HK.”
The activists have avoided a potential life sentence as their offences took place before Beijing introduced a controversial security law with harsh punishments for protest and dissent.
Rights group Amnesty International condemned the ruling, saying it was a way for authorities to “send a warning to anyone who dares to openly criticise the government that they could be next”.
“These three activists have been jailed in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” said Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra.
Later in the day, media tycoon Jimmy Lai, also an activist, was arrested on fraud charges. In August, a spectacular raid on the offices of his newspaper, Apple Daily, attracted global attention. At the time, he was arrested under the new security law but later released on bail.
Two other executives were arrested with him on Wednesday and police confirmed the action was linked to the August raid. Apple Daily is frequently critical of the Hong Kong authorities and the leadership in mainland China.
The newly sentenced trio rose to prominence in the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” pro-democracy protests. Wong and Chow were still in their teens when they became student leaders.
One of Hong Kong’s most recognisable dissidents, Wong has served several shorter prison sentences.
He also supported the new wave of protests that rocked the territory in 2019, which repeatedly led to violent clashes between demonstrators and police.
Beijing has since introduced a sweeping new security law for Hong Kong with harsh punishment for acts of secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces.
In response, Wong disbanded his political organisation Demosisto, which he had co-founded with Chow. Lam was a chairman of the group.
Chow, who some have nicknamed the “goddess of democracy”, was also arrested under the new security law in August this year but was released on bail. She faces separate charges of “inciting secession”. (Source: BBC)