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Radio Free Asia

Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam Jailed For Protest Outside Police HQ

2020-12-02 -- A court in Hong Kong on Wednesday handed down jail terms of up to 13-and-a-half months to three prominent democracy activists for their role in a mass protest that laid siege to police headquarters on June 21, 2019 for several hours.

Joshua Wong, 24, was handed a 13-and-a-half-month jail term by the West Kowloon Magistrate's Court, while fellow activists Agnes Chow, 23, and Ivan Lam, 26, were jailed for 10 months and seven months respectively.

All three had earlier pleaded guilty to charges of "inciting others to take part in an illegal assembly," and "taking part in an illegal assembly," and their sentences were reduced in recognition of the guilty plea.

However, Wong's "leadership role" in the protest had earned him a longer sentence, the judge said.

Wong shouted "I know it's tough, but hang in there," on hearing his sentence, while Chow -- who has never served jail time before -- wept on hearing her sentence.

Supporters crowded into the courtroom shouted "Add oil!" a cry of encouragement that became ubiquitous during the months-long mass protests that rocked Hong Kong through much of 2019 after chief executive Carrie Lam tried to change the law to enable the extradition of alleged criminal suspects to mainland China.

The anti-extradition movement quickly broadened to include demands for official and police accountability, as well as for fully democratic elections that were promised to the city but ruled out by decree by Beijing in 2014.

The June 21 protest was peaceful, with thousands of people gathering outside police headquarters in protest at police violence against protesters earlier in the same month.

Multiple acts of vandalism against police property, especially surveillance cameras, were seen on live-streamed footage from the night, as police watched from inside the building.

'Premeditated actions'

Passing sentence, magistrate Wong Sze-lai told the court the defendants' actions were "premeditated" and that protest had posed "a potential danger" that had hindered police officers' ability to respond to emergency calls.

She said Joshua Wong's series of actions were targeted at the police and aimed at challenging their authority, and that immediate imprisonment was the only appropriate option to create a "deterrent effect."

A statement on Wong's Twitter account -- which is currently being run by his friends -- said the fight wasn't over.

"It's not the end of the fight," it said. "Ahead of us is another challenging battleground. 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 tenacity of HKers continues to give us strength in our sufferings. Please, take your positions, give support to each other," it said, referring to the 12 Hong Kong protesters currently facing prosecution for "illegally crossing a border" in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen after they tried to flee to the democratic island of Taiwan.

Wong, Lam and Chow were taken from the court to the Lai Chi Kok Reception Center by prison van after the sentencing hearing, which was attended by prominent pro-democracy figures including Cardinal Joseph Zen and former lawmaker Eddie Chu.

Call for release

Amnesty International called in a statement for the trio's immediate release.

"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," the group's Asia-Pacific regional director Yamini Mishra said.

"These three activists have been jailed in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Their convictions should be overturned without delay and they must be released immediately and unconditionally."

"By targeting well-known activists from Hong Kong's largely leaderless protest movement, authorities are sending a warning to anyone who dares openly criticize the government that they could be next," Mishra said in a statement, adding that organizers or attendees shouldn't be held responsible for damage to public property.

Others targeted, accused

Meanwhile, Baptist University student union leader Keith Fong, 22, was rearrested for "possession of an offensive weapon" and "resisting arrest" linked to his use of a laser pointer during protests last year.

Fong was stopped by off-duty officers on the night of Aug. 6, 2019 as he was buying a laser device on Apliu Street in Sham Shui Po, with 10 laser pens allegedly found on him. Police have claimed that the laser pointers frequently used by protesters last year can damage eyesight if used to target a person.

Fong is also accused of fleeing the scene of his first arrest and then resetting his cell phone.

The Baptist University student union condemned Fong's arrest, as well as the ongoing and widespread arrests of dissidents under a draconian national security law imposed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party on Hong Kong from July 1.

The national security machinery appeared on Wednesday to be gearing up to accuse democracy activist Tam Tak-chi, who has yet to be charged with any crime, of sedition.

The Department of Justice requested that a national security judge take the case, saying Tam's shouting of popular protest slogans including "Free Hong Kong! Revolution Now!" amount to sedition under the law.

According to the department, such words "clearly have a subversive meaning", alleging that Tam had tried to "alter the constitutional order of Hong Kong."

A national security judge will hold a hearing on Thursday to decide whether to take on Tam's case, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

Reported by RFA's Cantonese and Mandarin Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie

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