Hong Kong activists jailed for role in 2014 protests

Javier Stokes
January 19, 2018

A Hong Kong court on Wednesday handed democracy activists Joshua Wong and Raphael Wong prison terms of three and four and a half months, respectively, for criminal contempt in relation to a pro-democracy demonstration in 2014.

Ahead of the hearing, Joshua Wong - who became the teenage face of the Umbrella Movement - said he had "no regrets" about his involvement.

Joshua Wong's party, Demosisto, also said on Wednesday that they were "very disappointed" by the sentence. Wong and some others in the case had pleaded guilty a year ago for failing to comply with a court order to clear out of a protest camp during the 79-day "Umbrella Movement" protests in late 2014.

Wong was sentenced to three months in jail.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said at the time that the arrest and jailing of peaceful Occupy Central protesters raised concerns about Hong Kong's adherence to worldwide human rights standards. Lawyers for both the Wongs said they would appeal, but they were denied an immediate request for bail.

The name of the movement arose from the use of umbrellas as a tool for peaceful resistance to the Hong Kong police during the protests.

Benedict Rogers, founder and chair of the United Kingdom -based rights group Hong Kong Watch, tells TIME he was "surprised and shocked" by the ruling, but that it will be unlikely to derail Wong and his peers in their pursuit of universal suffrage and democratic norms in Hong Kong.

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Fourteen other defendants including leading activist Lester Shum were given suspended sentences on contempt charges.

They failed to win concessions and since then leading activists have been charged over their involvement.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 amid promises that it would keep a high degree of autonomy, but activists accuse Beijing of tightening control in recent years.

The High Court also gave suspended sentences of 12 or 18 months to 14 others, some of whom such as Lester Shum were also fined between HK$10,000 (around US$1,280) and HK$15,000. This allows freedom of speech and a partially directly elected parliament, as well as an independent judiciary, but there are concerns those liberties are being eroded.

Joshua Wong had been on bail, awaiting appeal against a six-month jail term imposed last August for a separate charge.

The government's move was seen as further evidence of Beijing's growing influence over Hong Kong.

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