Three prominent young democracy leaders in Hong Kong have been jailed for “unlawful assembly” linked to the city’s months-long pro-democracy protests in 2014.
20-year-old Joshua Wong, former student leader, 26 year old Alex Chow and 24 year old Nathan Law, the youngest ever democratically elected lawmaker in Hong Kong were jailed for six, seven and eight months respectively.
The trio had avoided jail a year ago, but this month Hong Kong’s department of justice called for those sentences to be reconsidered, with one senior prosecutor attacking the “rather dangerous” leniency he claimed had been shown to the activists.
“See you soon,” Wong tweeted shortly after the verdict was announced.
In another message he wrote: “Imprisoning us will not extinguish Hongkonger’s desire for universal suffrage. We are stronger, more determined, and we will win.”
The decision to increase the activists’ punishments sparked outrage among supporters and campaigners who condemned what they called the latest example of Beijing’s bid to snuff out peaceful challenges to its rule.
Outside the High Court, a pro-establishment rally called for their imprisonment.
The former British colony, which last month celebrated the 20th anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, was gridlocked by nearly three months of street protests in 2014’s “Umbrella Movement” that failed to convince Beijing to allow full democracy in the city of 7.3 million.
The yellow umbrellas became a symbol of revolution after protesters used them the previous year to fend off police pepper spray attacks.
Protesters had been calling for free elections for Hong Kong’s next leader in 2017 rather than the vote between pre-screened candidates that Beijing said it would allow.
On Tuesday, 13 umbrella activists were jailed for storming Hong Kong’s parliament in 2014, a decision Human Rights Watch condemned as part of a surge in politically motivated prosecutions.
Speaking on Wednesday night, Wong said he would not be silenced, even behind bars where he planned to spend his time reading novels, studying and writing columns about politics.