Home News Young Hong Kong activists detained for illegal assembly, face 3 years jail

Young Hong Kong activists detained for illegal assembly, face 3 years jail

Three young Hong Kong pro-democracy activists — Joshua Wong, Ivan Lam and Agnes Chow — were remanded in custody on Nov. 23 over their role in demonstrations last year.

The trio pled guilty to charges of organizing and inciting an unauthorized assembly near police headquarters during last year’s pro-democracy protests.

They are being held until sentencing is delivered on Dec. 2. They face up to three years in prison, reported HKFP.

Wong did not plead guilty to a third charge of knowingly participating in an unauthorised assembly after the prosecution offered no evidence for it.

Before being taken away by security staff, Wong shouted “Everyone hang in there! Add oil” in the courtroom, using a popular Cantonese expression of encouragement often used during protests.

Wong, who was just 17 years old when he became the face of the 2014 student-led Umbrella Movement democracy protests.

“Perhaps the authorities wish me to stay in prison one term after another,” Wong said in a statement before entering the courtroom.

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“But I am persuaded that, neither prison bars, nor election bans, nor any other arbitrary powers would stop us from activism. What we are doing now is to explain the value of freedom to the world.”

Dozens of supporters outside the court chanted pro-democracy slogans and “Release Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam!”

Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow arrives at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts to face charges related to illegal assembly stemming from 2019, in Hong Kong, Nov. 23. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Chow, who is a Catholic, was earlier arrested on Aug. 10 allegedly for “inciting secession” under a new national security law imposed by Beijing. She was later released on bail. The trial on Nov. 23 is not under that controversial security law.

“If I am sentenced to prison this time, it will be the first time in my life that I have been in jail,” Chow wrote on her Facebook page on Nov. 22.

“Although I am mentally prepared, I still feel a little bit scared. However, compared to many friends, I have suffered very little. When I think of this, I will try my best to face it bravely,” wrote the 23-year-old.

“If I can get through tomorrow in peace, and on Dec. 2, I [then] have to report to the police station on the national security law. It is difficult to keep up with wave after wave, I only hope that I can continue to keep a steadfast mind,” she wrote.

Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the charges should be dropped.

“The trio [have] done nothing wrong — the Hong Kong govt. should immediately drop these charges involving Hong Kong’s Public Order Ordinance, which places excessive restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Wang said via Twitter.

Wong was not a leading figure in last year’s pro-democracy and anti-Beijing protests, but his continued activism has drawn the wrath of the Chinese government Beijing, which sees him as a “black hand” of foreign forces.

He disbanded his pro-democracy group Demosisto in June, just hours after China’s parliament passed the national security law for Hong Kong, punishing anything Beijing considers to be subversion, secessionism, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison. Both Chow and Lam are likewise former Demosisto members.

Pro-democracy activists Ivan Lam, Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow arrive at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts to face charges related to illegal assembly stemming from 2019, in Hong Kong, Nov. 23. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

Wong also faces charges of participating in an unauthorized assembly in October 2019 and on June 4, 2020 over a vigil commemorating the crackdown on protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Earlier this year, Wong was disqualified along 11 other pro-democracy politicians and activists from running in a since-postponed election for the city’s legislature.

Wong spent five weeks in jail last year for contempt of court, before being released on June 16 when protests were already in full swing.

Wong’s and other activists’ repeated arrests have drawn criticism from Western governments who say Beijing is not fulfilling its obligation to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, agreed with former colonial master Britain when the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

With Reuters

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