Hong Kong gets even tougher on pro-democracy activists, jailing two
Hong Kong — Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was jailed for three months on Wednesday for obstructing clearance of a major encampment during mass pro-democracy protests in 2014, the second time he has been imprisoned over the rallies.
Wong, who had pleaded guilty to the contempt charge, was already on bail pending an appeal over a six-month sentence for another offence related to the Umbrella Movement. It comes as some fear prison terms for leading campaigners are discouraging young people from expressing their views, and are muzzling freedom of speech in the semi-autonomous city, where there are growing signs that China is increasing its control.
Judge Andrew Chan described Wong’s involvement in obstructing the clearance operation as "deep and extensive" in his written judgment.
"He played a leading role on that day," he said. "The only appropriate punishment for Mr Wong is immediate imprisonment." Fellow activist Raphael Wong was jailed for four months and 15 days on Wednesday over the same incident.
The judge denied both bail but defence lawyers pushed for him to reconsider his decision and were granted a further hearing on Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile both activists were taken into custody by security guards.
"Our determination to fight for democracy will not change!" Raphael Wong shouted as he was led away. Ahead of the hearing, Joshua Wong — who became the teenage face of the Umbrella Movement — said he had "no regrets" about his involvement. "They can lock up our bodies but they can’t lock up our minds," he told reporters.
Dozens of supporters gathered outside the high court, chanting: "Civil disobedience, no fear!" and "I’m a Hong Konger, I want universal suffrage!"
The Umbrella Movement was an unprecedented rebuke to Beijing as tens of thousands of protesters brought parts of the city to a standstill demanding fully free leadership elections to replace a system where the CEO is selected by a pro-Beijing committee.
They failed to win concessions and, since then, leading activists have been charged over their involvement. Beijing has been further incensed by the emergence of some activists calling for independence for Hong Kong since the failure of the Umbrella Movement to win reform.
Wong’s party Demosisto wants self-determination for the city.
Hong Kong has been governed under a "one country, two systems" deal since 1997, when Britain handed the territory back to China. The agreement allows citizens rights, unseen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and a partially directly elected parliament, as well as an independent judiciary, but there are concerns those liberties are being eroded.
Wong was jailed for six months in August on unlawful assembly charges for involvement in the storming of a fenced-off government forecourt known as Civic Square in September 2014, which sparked the wider Umbrella Movement rallies.
Wong and fellow campaigners Nathan Law and Alex Chow were originally given non-custodial sentences by a lower court over that incident, but after the government’s intervention they were jailed by the court of appeal. The government’s move was seen as further evidence of Beijing’s growing influence over Hong Kong.
Their appeal against their sentences is currently being considered by Hong Kong’s top court.