Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and two others were taken into custody on Monday after they pleaded guilty to charges related to demonstrations outside the police headquarters during anti-government protests in 2019, AP reported.
Wong, along with activists Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam, pleaded guilty to charges of organising, participating and inciting protesters to join an unauthorised protest outside the police headquarters in June 2019. The three were members of the now-disbanded Demosisto, a pro-democracy political party.
The three activists are likely to be sentenced on December 2. Those found guilty of participating in an unlawful assembly may be imprisoned for five years, depending on the severity of the offence.
Before being escorted by security staff at the court, Wong shouted: “Everyone hang in there! Add oil”, according to Reuters. The phrase is a popular Cantonese expression of encouragement often used during protests.
Following this, Wong’s official Twitter account posted a reminder of the 12 Hong Kong citizens detained in China after being arrested at sea in August. The arrested were trying to flee to Taiwan to escape charges related to last year’s protests in the city. “Today marks the 93rd day of their detention,” Wong said. “Their families finally received letters from the dozen, signifying that they are still alive. #SAVE12 campaign managed [to] pressure China.”
Wong’s Twitter account posted that he was in jail and his friends were managing the page.
The activist’s Twitter account posted more about the content of the letters, indicating that the 12 people were tortured into confessing. The letters also said they were provided lawyers assigned by the authorities, and that the group expressed regret for taking part in activism.
Wong also paid tribute to others facing trial or prisons or those who cannot return to Hong Kong. “What we are doing now is to explain the value of freedom to the world, through our compassion to whom we love, so much that we are willing to sacrifice the freedom of our own,” Wong tweeted. “I’m still learning to conquer the fear and I believe you are with me along this journey.”
Wong had on Sunday said that he and Lam decided to plead guilty after speaking with their lawyers. They had earlier pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Chow had already pleaded guilty. “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 Sunday. “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,” she wrote.
On June 21, 2019, thousands had rallied outside the Hong Kong Police headquarters to protest what they said was excessive use of force against demonstrators. Wong was not a leading figure in last year’s pro-democracy protests, but has been a prominent figure since 2014.
He became popular as a student leader during the 2014 Umbrella Movement pro-democracy protests. Wong is also among a rising number of activists being charged with relatively minor offenses after Beijing imposed a national security law on the territory that severely restricts political speech.
Wong had disbanded Demosisto, just hours after China’s Parliament passed the security law for Hong Kong.
China’s contentious security law
In June, China’s Parliament had passed the legislation for Hong Kong that would override local laws and give sweeping powers to security agencies. The unprecedented law is aimed at curbing protests – which rocked Hong Kong last year – and prohibiting subversion, separatism, “acts of foreign interference”, and terrorism. These charges are often used in the Chinese mainland to stifle dissidents and political opponents.
Various countries have criticised Beijing’s crackdown on freedoms in Hong Kong. On August 7, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other senior officials in the territory and mainland China over their alleged roles in curtailing political freedoms and suppressing dissent. New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom scrapped their extradition treaty with Hong Kong because of China’s law.
Earlier in November, all of Hong Kong’s Opposition politicians resigned together after China pushed out four of their colleagues. This came after Beijing passed a resolution allowing the city’s government to dismiss politicians who were considered a threat to national security.