Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong returned to prison on Thursday after he sought to appeal a court case relating to the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement. However, the appeal judge shortened the sentence from three months to two.

Wong was among several protesters who failed to comply with an injunction to clear the Umbrella Movement protest camp in Mong Kok. He and 19 others were charged with contempt of court, to which Wong pleaded guilty.

In January 2018, the court sentenced Wong to three months in prison. Wong chose to appeal the jail sentence and was released on bail on January 23, having served six days behind bars.

Joshua Wong
Joshua Wong. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

The Court of Appeal sided with Wong on Thursday, saying the first instance judge failed to explain why he did not give weight to Wong’s young age when determining the sentence.

However, Wong still needed to return to jail, as the judges said that deterrence was “ordinarily the primary consideration in sentencing” for cases of criminal contempt.

Wong’s actions were “tantamount to a direct and frontal challenge to the court” and “must be met with a deterrent sentence,” the 45-page ruling read.

Criminal contempt “threatens the due administration of justice as a whole” and presents a direct challenge to Hong Kong’s rule of law, the judges added.

Hong Kong Police
Police clearing Mong Kok protest site in 2014. File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The judges set the starting point for Wong’s jail term at three months, and reduced it by one-third because Wong pleaded guilty and apologised. This meant he had a total of seven weeks remaining starting from Thursday, with the possibility of further reduction for good behaviour.

While the case dealt with the aftermath of Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy movement, the judges said that politics was not a factor in sentencing.

“Any suggestion that [Wong] is punished because of his status or notoriety as a committed social activist or any other reason… is entirely baseless and misconceived,” the judges said.

Demosisto ‘very disappointed’

As Wong was led away from the courtroom, he shouted “Everybody add oil” – Cantonese slang for “keep it up” – and “Oppose the extradition bill!”

Agnes chow
Demosisto’s Agnes Chow speaks to reporters after Joshua Wong was jailed. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

This was the third time that Wong had been jailed. Before he received his sentence, Wong told supporters that his case was relatively minor compared to that of other jailed activists; he also called on the public to continue opposing the extradition bill proposed by the government.

Speaking after the sentencing, Demosisto member Agnes Chow said that the group was “very disappointed” with the outcome. They would decide whether to further appeal the case after discussing with Wong and his lawyers.

“The Hong Kong government should solve society’s problems, instead of ‘solving’ the activists who point out those problems and try to fix them,” Chow said.

Last year, first instance judge Andrew Chan sentenced Wong to jail because he had “deep and extensive” involvement in obstructing the clearance of the Mong Kok site. “He played a leading role that day,” Chan said at the time.

Wong’s defence lawyers tried to dispute this point on appeal, but was rejected by appeal judges.

high court
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Last September, Wong asked the court to relax his bail requirements so that he could leave the city, saying that he had to attend overseas forums and collect prizes. His application was denied.

Aside from Wong, the other original defendants of the Mong Kok contempt of court case were: Raphael Wong, Lester Shum, Chau Wan-ying, Chu Wai-lun, Cheung Kai-yin, Chu Pui-yan, Ma Po-kwan, Kwok Yeung-yuk, Chiu Chi-sum, Chan Po-ying, Cheung Kai-hong, Kwan Siu-wang, Hung Cheuk-lun, Fung Kai-hei, Choi Tat-shing, Szeto Tze-long Jason, Wong Lai-wan, Yeung Ho-wah and Mak Ying-sheung.

Raphael Wong received a four-and-a-half month jail term, while the remaining defendants had their sentences suspended.

The Hong Kong Free Press #PressForFreedom 2019 Funding Drive seeks to raise HK$1.2m to support our non-profit newsroom and dedicated team of multi-media, multi-lingual reporters. HKFP is backed by readers, run by journalists and is immune to political and commercial pressure. This year’s critical fundraiser will provide us with the essential funds to continue our work into next year.

funding drive press for freedom

Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.