A trio of young Hong Kong opposition activists have been sentenced after pleading guilty to organizing a demonstration last year as part of a larger protest against Hong Kong’s receding autonomy.
Their sentencing on Wednesday is the latest blow to the region’s opposition movement which seeks to preserve Hong Kong’s limited autonomy from Beijing.
The three — Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam — have been held without bail since pleading guilty in late November for organizing and participating in the protest last year that surrounded police headquarters. Wong, Chow and Lam, all in their 20s, are also founding members of the now-disbanded Demosisto opposition political party.
“We’re now joining the battle in prison along with many brave protesters, less visible yet essential in the fight for democracy and freedom for HK,” Wong wrote through his lawyers on Twitter shortly after the sentencing.
This is Wong’s second stint in prison. He served a two-month term in 2019 related to his leadership in a civil disobedience campaign in 2014 popularly called the Umbrella Movement.
Hong Kong has arrested more than 10,000 protesters who took part in months-long demonstrations beginning last year. The mass rallies were sparked by a proposed extradition bill with mainland China, and the bill was shelved after peaceful marches.
The marches then ballooned into wider calls for democratic reforms to Hong Kong’s government, which is led by a Beijing-appointed chief executive, and later on, reforms of Hong Kong’s police department after allegations of police brutality.
This year, Beijing has acted quickly to legally dismantle Hong Kong’s opposition movement and bring the region’s semi-autonomous institutions under Beijing’s legal heel.
In June, China imposed a new national security law that has effectively outlawed future dissent.
Several protesters have already been charged under the law, which carries life sentences for broad crimes including secession and foreign collusion and allows for defendants to be extradited to mainland China.
Last month, Beijing’s legislature expelled four opposition lawmakers from Hong Kong’s legislature. The remaining opposition lawmakers resigned in protest, leaving the region’s Legislative Council entirely populated by industry or pro-Beijing factions.