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Three Young Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activists Jailed for 2019 Protests

(-In this file photo taken on Nov.23, 2020, pro-democracy activists (L-R) Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam and Joshua Wong arrive for their trial at West Kowloon Magistrates Court in Hong Kong.

Three prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists received prison sentences Wednesday in connection to a protest outside the city’s police headquarters in June 2019.

The harshest sentence was handed down to 24-year-old Joshua Wong, who was sentenced to 13-and-a-half months in prison for organizing and inciting an unlawful assembly. Twenty-three year-old Agnes Chow was given a 10-month sentence for participating and inciting others to participate, while 26-year-old Ivan Lam received 7 months on a charge of incitement.

The trio pled guilty to the charges last month during a court appearance on the advice of their lawyers.

Thousands of protesters surrounded the headquarters on June 21, 2019 to demand the government withdraw a controversial bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. The bill sparked massive and sometimes violent anti-government demonstrations that engulfed the Asian financial hub for months.

Yamini Mishra, the Asia-Pacific Regional Director for Amnesty International, denounced the sentences in a statement: “By targeting well-known activists from Hong Kong’s largely leaderless protest movement, authorities are sending a warning to anyone who dares openly criticize the government that they could be next.”

The arrests and sentencing of the three pro-democracy activists comes as Beijing tightens its grip on the semi-autonomous city after passing a sweeping national security law in June of this year. Scores of activists have been arrested since the law took effect, while 15 pro-democracy lawmakers resigned en masse from the city’s legislature last month after four colleagues were disqualified and expelled.

Under the new law, anyone in Hong Kong believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted. Chinese state media have repeatedly accused Wong and other prominent pro-democracy figures of “collusion with foreign powers” for their engagements with U.S. and other foreign governments.

Wong was one of the leaders of the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” mass demonstrations in 2014 that shut down much of Hong Kong in an unsuccessful attempt to win full democracy for the self-autonomous city.