Joshua Wong pleads guilty over 2019 Hong Kong protests

Pro-democracy campaigners remanded in custody for sentencing next week

Members of the media surround a correctional services bus purportedly carrying pro-democracy activists Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam and Joshua Wong as it leaves the court in Hong Kong on Monday. Photograph: AFP via Getty Images

Members of the media surround a correctional services bus purportedly carrying pro-democracy activists Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam and Joshua Wong as it leaves the court in Hong Kong on Monday. Photograph: AFP via Getty Images

 

Joshua Wong, the Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigner, pleaded guilty along with two other activists on Monday to unauthorised assembly charges over a 2019 protest and were immediately jailed, capping a month of arrests of activists, journalists and politicians in the city.

Mr Wong, along with Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam, who were all members of the since-disbanded group Demosisto, were remanded by a court in the West Kowloon District and will be sentenced next week.

The three were accused of unauthorised assembly over a demonstration in June 2019, when thousands of people surrounded Hong Kong Police Headquarters and called for an investigation into the use of force by officers. They did not say why they had pleaded guilty rather than fight the charges. In a Facebook post on Sunday, Mr Wong wrote that the decision had been made after examining the prosecution’s evidence and consulting with legal counsel.

Demosisto disbanded shortly after Beijing imposed a tough national security law on Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese city, and pressed an increasingly aggressive campaign against dissent. Mr Wong, who previously served three separate stints behind bars over two protest-related cases, said on Monday that he was prepared to return to jail.

“Perhaps the authorities wish me to stay in prison one term after another,” he said before his court hearing. “But I am persuaded that, neither prison bars, nor election ban, nor any other arbitrary powers would stop us from activism.”

Ms Chow (23), who like Mr Wong (24) was also a key figure in the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement, said she was concerned about the prospect of a prison sentence. She pleaded guilty in July to charges of participating in an unauthorised assembly and inciting others to participate that stemmed from the case. She was also arrested in August on suspicions of inciting secession under the national security law.

“If sentenced, this will be my first time in prison,” she wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “While I say I have mentally prepared for this, I am still a bit scared.” Mr Wong rose to prominence as a teenage protest leader during the Umbrella Movement.Days after his release from jail last year, he spoke outside the Police Headquarters in Hong Kong, where thousands had gathered. He criticised the authorities for characterising a June 12th protest outside Hong Kong’s legislature as a riot.

“No riots, only tyranny,” he led the crowd in chanting. Later that day, some demonstrators threw eggs at the headquarters and marked graffiti on the outside walls.

Mr Wong pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of inciting and organising an unauthorised assembly, for which he faces up to five years in prison. But he has maintained his innocence in a related charge of taking part in an unauthorised assembly.

The police have made several arrests over protests and activism in Hong Kong in the past month. Eight pro-democracy lawmakers were arrested in November over a chaotic meeting in the legislature in May. Hong Kong’s entire pro-democracy camp later resigned from the legislature after Beijing authorised the removal of four of their group. – New York Times