On Sunday, tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest the imprisonment of 16 jailed democracy and land rights activists. Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow, leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, were sentenced to six to eight months in jail last Thursday for their role in a protest that sparked a months-long demonstration for democratic reform. Last Tuesday, 13 activists, including League of Social Democrats Vice-chairman Raphael Wong, Land Justice League convener Willis Ho and activist Billy Chiu, were jailed over their participation in a protest outside the Legislative Council against development in the northeast New Territories.

Braving temperatures of up to 36 degrees, demonstrators marched from the eastern district of Wan Chai to the Court of Final Appeal in Central. HKFP spoke to some of Sunday’s participants:

Mr. Yeung, 24, student at Ivey

“I am joining this protest because the government has destroyed the political futures of these young people, using an appeal procedure to purposefully add a jail sentence so that they cannot participate in the next election, extinguishing the voices of the pan-democrats and those who want autonomy. As a young person, I feel quite hopeless at the moment.”

Mr Yeung. The slogan on the sign: “The goal post keeps moving; everyone knows how to be a bureaucrat. Bureaucrats full of craps.” Photo: Jun Pang/HKFP.

Mr. Tang, 30, engineer and Ms. Chu, 27, nurse

Tang: “I came out because an injustice has occurred in society.”

Chu: “Hong Kong’s values are being trampled. No one is paying attention to what Hongkongers say, some people are stopping Hongkongers from saying what they want.”

Mr. Tong, 38, engineer

“I came today because this is a clear case of the legal system being used to threaten voices that support justice – opposition voices. Because we can see that in the court’s judgement, it is almost like a current affairs discussion column: there is an attempt to interpret ‘civil resistance’ or ‘illegal gathering’… for them to use the spirit of the law to reinterpret the judgement in this way is an act of intimidation.”

Mr. Tong. The slogan on the sign: “Political climate: hot.” Photo: Jun Pang/HKFP.

“If they say that they considered the atmosphere of society as a reason for making the judgement, then why did the judges not consider why Civic Square had to be retaken? This is an extremely biased judgement, which tells us that there were political motivations… For example, if a person was accused of stealing, you would have to consider whether they’re stealing a luxury item, or if they’re a starving person stealing a loaf of bread. You must consider the reasons. But in this judgement they haven’t done that – ‘even if you have good intentions, you broke the law, so I must arrest you.’ This is the logic of the judgement… it is very scary.”

Mr. Kwok, 45, clerk, and primary school-age son: 

“Once the law is used in politics, I believe it is important to come out to express my opinion. I do not think that this is supposed to happen – no matter if it is the case of the Northeast New Territories, or the three Occupy protesters, they had already been sentenced. As a Hong Kong citizen, if they [the government] say that the law was not applied in a political way, I would not believe it. I think it is necessary to come out and tell the government that this judgement is not correct.”

Photo: Jun Pang/HKFP.

“I took my son here today because as a dad, I think it is important to tell my son what is happening in society – this is like a class.”

🔴HKFP_LIVE: Thousands are gathered in protest against the jailing of 16 pro-democracy figures this week. Demonstrators are calling for the release of ‘political prisoners’ as they arrive in Admiralty.

Posted by Hong Kong Free Press HKFP on Sunday, 20 August 2017

Ms. Chow, 68, retired and Ms. So, 71, retired: 

Chow: “We are very angry today. They have hurt young people – now we in the older generation must stand out and express our stance. We actually didn’t know each other before this protest – but because we have the same perspective, as we all do standing out here, we are marching in solidarity together… They say that people have poisoned, brainwashed the youth – but as people from the older generation, who brainwashed us? Who has the guts, who has the ability to mislead us?”

So: “It may be hot outside, but not hotter than our anger!”

Ms. Chow. The slogan on the sign: “Stop political persecution.” Photo: Jun Pang/HKFP.

So: “I have been protesting for many, many years. When the Tiananmen massacre happened, there was a Typhoon Signal 8.”

Chow: “I protested outside the Xinhua News Agency in Wan Chai. That day was my 40th birthday – I remember going out to protest, I was soaked from head to toe, I forgot to eat that day – I only remembered it was my 40th birthday that night when I went home from the protest. In the 20 years since, as a born-and-raised Hongkonger, I have been sad to see the city change so much.”

Mr. Wong, 44, IT sector    

“I participated in the Northeast New Territories protests in 2014, and was also present at the September 26 action to retake Civic Square. Seeing these 16 friends imprisoned… I personally feel very sad. I hope that today they will see that a lot of Hongkongers have come out to support them – I hope that in prison, whether it’s in the newspapers or on the news, they will see us.”

Mr. Wong. Slogan on the sign: “They might have broken the law but they are not sinful.” Photo: Jun Pang/HKFP.

“I want to tell the protesters inside: Don’t worry. Hongkongers have not given up.”

Jun Pang

Jun Pang is an independent writer and researcher. She has previously worked in NGOs advocating for refugees' and migrants' rights in Asia and Europe.