A Hong Kong court has sentenced 20-year-old political activist Joshua Wong to three months in jail in a trial triggered by his perceived threat to the country’s security.
Judge Lai Chi-wai said Wong was guilty of criminal contempt for showing up at the election of a new leader of the city’s civil liberties oversight committee in September. He also ordered Wong to pay $3,000.
The political leader of the Chinese-run city, the handpicked election committee chooses candidates for the territory’s next chief executive, but they must have strong public support.
The 20-year-old Wong, a leader of the student-led 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, was detained along with 16 other activists by the mainland Chinese authorities. The 17th activist was allowed to return to Hong Kong without trial.
“This shows that the government has the power to use its law to suppress the voices of the young in Hong Kong,” said Lester Shum, a senior fellow at the David Kilgour Centre for International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. “The ruling today is a reminder of how far Beijing is willing to go to maintain control over Hong Kong and Xi Jinping as he tries to solidify his position as China’s strongman.”
Wong had been facing the maximum possible sentence of three years’ imprisonment.
Joshua Wong and 19 others were arrested in Hong Kong, 10 days after China’s central government called on Hong Kong’s leaders to “hold a sober assessment of the situation and to take concrete action so as to realize democracy in the city as soon as possible.”
The Ministry of Public Security issued a statement to the public, warning that the 17 activists had “interfered in the autonomous affairs of Hong Kong and threatened national security.”
The appeal was delayed, but it was declared that the judges of the Second Intermediate Court were not biased, resulting in the lower court judge to release Wong in late October.
“It’s a whitewash, a political decision that nobody got to see,” said Wong’s lawyer, Pang Ho-fung. “It’s totally reversible now, if he changes his mind and doesn’t lodge an appeal.”
Pang added that the case could be ripe for appeal.