HONG KONG (AP) — Three prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activists were sentenced to jail Wednesday for a protest outside police headquarters, as authorities stepped up a crackdown on opposition to tighten Beijing’s control over the territory.
The activists — Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam — are among more than 10,000 people who have been arrested since June 2019 on charges related to protests against a proposed extradition law that expanded to include demands for greater democracy.
Beijing responded to the protests by imposing a sweeping national security law to crack down on dissent, which prompted more public opposition.
Wong, 24, is known abroad for his role as a student leader of the 2014 “Umbrella Revolution” protests in Hong Kong. He was sentenced to 13 1/2 months in jail after pleading guilty to organizing and taking part in the June 21, 2019, demonstration outside Hong Kong’s police headquarters to protest the now-withdrawn extradition bill and the use of force by police against protesters.
Chow was sentenced to 10 months by the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts after pleading guilty to participating and inciting other protesters. Lam pleaded guilty to incitement and was sentenced to 7 months.
The crackdown has prompted accusations that Beijing is violating the autonomy it promised when the former British colony was returned to China in 1997. It also has triggered warnings that the ruling Communist Party is damaging Hong Kong’s appeal as a global business center and one of Asia’s most dynamic cities.
Other democracy advocates including media tycoon Jimmy Lai have also been arrested under the security law.
The jailing of Wong, Chow and Lam drew a rebuke from Hong Kong’s last British governor, Chris Patten, who said in a statement that it “is another grim example of China’s determination to put Hong Kong in handcuffs.”
Amnesty International said the three “must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
“Once again, the government has used the politically motivated charge of ‘inciting others to protest’ to prosecute people who have merely spoken out and protested peacefully,” said the group’s Asia-Pacific regional director, Yamini Mishra.
“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.”