Hong Kong pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam have been sentenced to prison for organising and inciting an unauthorised assembly outside the police headquarters in Wan Chai last June.

The trio attended the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Wednesday after pleading guilty to their roles in the siege of the police base on Arsenal Street last June 21.

Activists Joshua Wong (C) and Ivan Lam (L) board a police van at Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre in Hong Kong on December 2, 2020, before going to court to be sentenced over a protest which took place outside the police headquarters in 2019. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP.

Wong was sentenced to 13.5 months in prison whilst Chow received 10 months, and Lam was handed seven months behind bars.

The trio had been remanded in custody for over a week after appearing in court last Monday.

According to a letter written by Wong, the high-profile democracy campaigner said he was placed in solitary confinement for a few days at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre after the Correctional Services said x-ray scans showed that there were foreign objects in his stomach.

Agnes Chow. File Photo: Studio Incendo.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Magistrate Lily Wong said the trio had been “premediated” in inciting others to take part in, or continue to take part in, the assembly. She said their inciting acts posed a threat to personal safety to people at the scene and caused serious disruption to traffic: “They committed the offence in a joint enterprise of which they were active participants,” Wong wrote in her ruling.

As he was led away, Wong shouted: “The days ahead will be tough but we will hang in there.”

Defaced Wan Chai Police Headquarters. Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

A message posted by his lawyers to Twitter said: “It’s not the end of the fight. Ahead of us is another challenging battleground. We’re now joining the battle in prison along with many brave protestors, less visible yet essential in the fight for democracy and freedom for HK. The tenacity of HKers continues to give us strength in our sufferings. Please, take your positions, give support to each other.”

Chow’s application for bail to await appeal was denied, as Magistrate Wong said her jail term was “not just a few weeks long.”

Sentencing

When delivering her sentencing, Magistrate Wong said the court had to consider factors including protecting the public, meting out penalties, and giving open condemnation and deterrence.

For the incitement charge, the court adopted nine months imprisonment as the starting point for Wong, saying he played a “more active role.” Lam and Chow saw 7.5 months as the starting point, but Lam’s jail term was increased to nine months as the court argued his previous sentences for four convictions did not “stop him from committing similar offences.”

Wong also has to serve 15 months in prison for organising the assembly whilst Chow received 12 months behind bars for knowingly taking part in the assembly.

After taking their plea of guilty into account, the court handed Wong and Lam sentencing discount of around 22 per cent, while Chow – who admitted to the offences in July – was afforded a full one-third sentence reduction.

Video: StudioIncendo.

The court said Wong and Chow must serve two months of their jail terms imposed on the incitement charge consecutively with their penalty for the other charges. This totalled 13.5 months for Wong and 10 months for Chow: “In view of the facts of the case and the background of the defendants, suspended sentences are inappropriate,” Magistrate Wong said.

Ahead of the court appearance, a small group held banners and signs outside, urging a heavy sentence for the trio, whom they described as “serious offenders” who “harmed” Hong Kong.

Protest outside court. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Activists including Alexandra “Grandma” Wong were also present in support of the defendants.

June 21 demo

Wong, Chow and Lam were leading members of the political group Demosisto, which was disbanded on June 30, hours before Beijing enacted a controversial national security law for Hong Kong outlawing secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism.

The prosecution said in last Monday’s hearing that the trio used their speech and actions to “suggest, encourage and urge” protesters to surround the police headquarters on June 21, 2019. Thousands of protesters gathered there amid anger over the police use of force in a large-scale demonstration on June 12 against a now-withdrawn extradition bill.

A protester holds a sign outside the Wan Chai police headquarters on June 21, 2019. Photo: May James.

The crowds outside the police office belted out slogans including “release the martyrs” and “shame on police thugs,” while others vandalised the building by throwing eggs and scrawling graffiti. Demonstrators also trapped officers and other police staff inside the complex for hours as they blocked off entrances and exits.

Wednesday’s sentencing marked the first time that Chow has been jailed, while Wong has been behind bars before over his role in the 2014 pro-democracy Umbrella Movement.

Lam also has a criminal record, including a conviction for unlawful assembly in connection with a protest against the northeast New Territories development proposal in 2014.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.