Hong Kong activists jailed for role in pro-democracy protest
Three prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have been jailed for a protest outside police headquarters, as authorities step up a crackdown on opposition to tighten Beijing’s control over the territory.
The activists – Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam – are among more than 10,000 people who have been arrested since June 2019 on charges related to protests against a proposed extradition law that expanded to include demands for greater democracy.
Wong, who pleaded guilty to organising and participating in the protest, received a 13-and-a-half-month prison sentence.
Chow, who also pleaded guilty to participating in the protest and inciting others to take part, received 10 months, while Lam was jailed for seven months after pleading guilty to incitement.
The protest took place on June 21 last year, and saw thousands surround the police headquarters as they demonstrated against excessive force by police against protesters, as well as a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed suspects to be extradited to mainland China.
The jailing of the trio, known for their advocacy for democracy in Hong Kong both at home and abroad, comes as Beijing tightens control over the semi-autonomous city following months of anti-government protests last year, which occasionally saw violent clashes between protesters and police.
In June, Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong to crack down on dissent.
The crackdown has prompted accusations that Beijing is violating the autonomy it promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997. It also has triggered warnings that the ruling Communist Party is damaging Hong Kong’s appeal as a global business centre and one of Asia’s most dynamic cities.
Other democracy advocates including media tycoon Jimmy Lai have also been arrested under the security law.
The jailing of Wong, Chow and Lam drew a rebuke from Hong Kong’s last British governor, Chris Patten, who said in a statement that it “is another grim example of China’s determination to put Hong Kong in handcuffs”.
Amnesty International said the three “must be released immediately and unconditionally”.
Yamini Mishra, the group’s Asia-Pacific regional director, said: “Once again, the government has used the politically-motivated charge of ‘inciting others to protest’ to prosecute people who have merely spoken out and protested peacefully.
“By targeting well-known activists from Hong Kong’s largely leaderless protest movement, authorities are sending a warning to anyone who dares openly criticise the government that they could be next.”
It is the first time that Chow, 23, has been given a jail sentence.
Wong, 24, and Lam, 26, have previously been jailed over charges related to their activism.