Hong Kong – Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy figure, was sentenced to 13-and-a-half months in prison, while fellow activist Agnes Chau received 10 months over a protest in Hong Kong last year, in the latest blow to political opposition in the Chinese city.
Evan Lam, the third member of their dissolved political group, Demosto, was sentenced to seven months in prison. While awaiting a verdict, the three were jailed last week after pleading guilty to unauthorized gathering charges during a demonstration in June 2019, when thousands gathered outside the police headquarters in the early days of the mass protest movement that swept the city. They faced up to three years in prison.
The Democratic Party was dissolved shortly after China imposed a far-reaching national security law on Hong Kong this summer. Authorities have since implemented an increasingly aggressive crackdown on dissidents, arresting activists, journalists and politicians. Four lawmakers were removed from their posts last month, which led to the mass resignation of the pro-democracy camp from the local legislature.
Mr Wong, 24, became a driving force in massive protests against restrictions on direct elections in 2014 in what was known as the Umbrella Movement. Ms. Chow, 23, who has been dubbed “Mulan” of Hong Kong’s Democratic Movement, has a wide following in Japan thanks to her Japanese language skills.
Mr. Lam, 26, co-founded the Scholarism Activist Group with Mr. Wong in 2011. The group, which Ms. Chow joined a year later, led protests against a plan to introduce a national curriculum in Hong Kong schools that considers “brainwashing”. Mr. Lam was subsequently imprisoned for storming the Legislative Council during a 2014 protest against the development plan.
After being imprisoned last week, Mr. Wong spent three days in solitary confinement because the examination indicates that he may have swallowed a foreign body prior to his arrest. Fernando Cheung, a former lawmaker who met Mr. Wong on Saturday, said that during that time, he had difficulty sleeping due to leaving his cell lights on 24 hours a day, and was undergoing regular medical checks. Mr. Cheung added that no foreign body had been found.
Mr. Wong was sentenced to three months in prison in 2018 for contempt of a court order to dismantle a protest camp in November 2014. He was released on bail after six days pending appeal, then reinstated to complete a shorter two-month period. Sentence in May 2019.
He also served 69 days of a six-month prison sentence on illegal gathering charges before his release and the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal overturned the ruling in 2018.
Ms Zhao, who had never been imprisoned before, said she did not adapt well to the conditions of detention and was unable to sleep at night, according to a message sent to friends who visited her in prison and posted it on her Facebook account on Sunday. .
She was quoted as saying, “I understand that I will probably be sentenced to prison on Wednesday, so my spirits were low, and I was very worried.”
Ms. Zhao was arrested earlier this year on suspicion of violating the new National Security Act by inciting secession. But she has not been charged in this case.
Mr. Cheung said Mr. Wong had found one positive thing about returning to detention: He no longer had to face persistent questions about what was next for the beleaguered democracy movement in Hong Kong.
“He doesn’t have to deal with that at the moment,” said Mr. Cheung. People understand that he is unable to do much in prison. The burden is now on the people outside. “