Hong Kong Sends Democracy Protest Leader Joshua Wong Back to Prison

china-wongsentence2-051619.jpg Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong addresses supporters before returning to prison, May 16, 2019.

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was sent back to prison by a Hong Kong court on Thursday to finish serving a sentence for his role in the 2014 Occupy Central protests.

The city's Court of Appeal also reduced his sentence to two months from three.

Wong, in the dock, shouted to the visitors' gallery on hearing the court's judgment: "Go, everybody! We'll need you all to oppose the China renditions law!"

His supporters responded with cheers, some of them in tears. Outside the court, supporters shouted: "Citizens resist! Have no fear!"

Earlier, Wong told reporters that he was more concerned about planned changes to Hong Kong's extradition laws than about his own sentence.

"I may be facing another spell in a Hong Kong prison at this appeal hearing today, but once the China renditions law, the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance [amendments] pass into law, then Hong Kong people could in future be looking at appeals in the People's Courts [of mainland China], not just the Hong Kong Court of Appeal," he said.

"The events of the next few months will decide whether or not this happens, and on the actions taken by the people of Hong Kong to bring down this evil China renditions law," Wong said.

Last month, thousands of people took to the streets in protest at the law, which will allow the Hong Kong government to grant extradition requests on a case-by-case basis with no meaningful judicial oversight, to countries with which it lacks an extradition treaty.

The most likely jurisdiction to use the proposed provision is mainland China, which currently has no extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, who is currently in the U.S. to raise concern over the erosion of Hong Kong's rights and freedoms under Chinese rule, said the changes to the law could affect anyone who lives in or travels to Hong Kong.

"All it needs is an affidavit from somebody in China to say that whoever it is they want to punish has committed a criminal offense many years ago ... and then that person can be transferred," Lee told a hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) in Washington on Wednesday.

Contempt of court

Wong, now 22, had earlier begun serving a six-month jail term for his part in the storming of police barriers outside government headquarters on Sept. 26, 2014 at the start of the Occupy Central democracy movement.

He was acquitted alongside fellow defendants Nathan Law and Alex Chow by Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal in February 2018.

But he was also handed a three-month sentence for "contempt of court," for trying to block the police clearance of an Occupy protest site in Mong Kok at the tail-end of the Umbrella Movement, which gained its nickname from the use of umbrellas by peaceful protesters to ward off pepper spray and tear-gas attacks by riot police.

He was released on bail in January, but his passport was confiscated and the High Court denied his request to ease his bail conditions, subjecting him to an effective travel ban.

Wong's lawyer argued that there was scant evidence to show Wong had encouraged others to defy a court injunction ordering protesters to leave.

However, the prosecution said Wong had escalated tensions between police and protesters on the day the street was cleared by police.

The Court of Appeal judges found that Wong's actions were a direct challenge to the court and must be met with a deterrent sentence, and rejected any defense based on the goals of his activism.

However, they took his youth into account—he was just 18 years old at the time of the protests—and reduced his sentence by one month.

'Draconian law'

Demosisto, the political party Wong co-founded with fellow student leaders after the end of the Occupy movement, criticized the ruling as disappointing, but called for supporters to focus on proposed legal changes that will allow the rendition of alleged criminal suspects to mainland China from Hong Kong, with no due legal process.

"Joshua's team says there is no need for supporters to go to the Lai Chi Kok prison tonight," the party said on its Facebook page."Instead, he asks that everyone do their best to help him and other prisoners by opposing that draconian law."

"Members of Demosisto will be visiting Joshua tomorrow, and they will keep everyone updated on the situation, so please don't worry," it said.

Agnes Chow, a Demosisto founding member who was barred from running in elections to Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo), said Wong had made mental preparation for his return to prison, although she was disappointed by the judgment.

"We believe that any citizen who takes part in a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign shouldn't be prosecuted," Chow told reporters.

She said the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam should do a better job of handling the demands of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, which called on Wednesday for the rendition law to be passed by LegCo as a matter of "urgency."

"The Hong Kong government has a responsibility to fix the political tensions behind the scenes, rather than trying to fix the young people and activists calling for social change," Chow said.

Demosisto was founded in April 2016 by three former leaders of the 2014 Occupy Central movement for fully democratic elections: Wong, Chow, and ousted lawmaker Nathan Law.

Reported by Lee Wang-yam for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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