A prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist who has pleaded guilty to organising an unauthorised pro-democracy protest in 2019 has expressed no remorse in court for his actions.

Appearing at a mitigation hearing at the city’s District Court on Friday, Raphael Wong, former chair of the League of Social Democrats, asserted the right of Hongkongers to take part in acts of civil disobedience.

Wan Chai government tower district court eastern magistrate
Wan Chai government tower. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Wong is one of seven pro-democracy activists who pleaded guilty on Thursday to organising an unauthorised assembly on October 20, 2019, at which thousands of Hongkongers defied a police ban to march against a newly-imposed anti-mask law in Kowloon.

Addressing Judge Amanda Woodcock, Wong said: “Your Honour, I have nothing to be ashamed of and no remorse for what I did on that day.”

He went on to accuse the government of trampling on the city’s freedoms and being the cause of the social unrest that erupted that year: “The true and frequent violence is the kind of violence that ignores people’s demands, that tramples on their opinions, that deprives them of their right to express themselves,” the activist said.

Raphael wong lsd League of social democrats at court
File photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

“The march in Kowloon on October 20 was certainly an opportunity to reflect public opinion. Now, by imposing heavy penalties on us, the court is only punishing public opinion… suffocating the freedom of expression,” he continued.

Wong also quoted American civil rights icon Martin Luther King, saying: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force… Throw us in jail and we shall still love you.”

The mitigation speech echoed the widespread defiance which spread across Hong Kong in 2019 but has subsided amid a Beijing-imposed national security law crackdown on political dissent in the city.

The former League of Social Democrats chair’s mitigation speech was made ahead of his sentencing which is expected to take place on September 1. Wong’s bail was revoked on Friday, according to Oriental Daily.

Mask ban rally

On October 20, 2019, five months into the pro-democracy protests and unrest that erupted in the city against a since-withdrawn anti-extradition law, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest a newly-imposed government ban on wearing face masks.

Police fired tear gas canisters and water cannons at the crowds, while some protesters vandalised stores believed to be pro-Beijing and hurled Molotov cocktails.

october 20 kowloon
Photo: May James/HKFP.

Wong is the only one of the seven charged with organising the unauthorised assembly who is not already serving time for charges relating to other unauthorised assemblies held earlier in 2019.

Others who have been charged in relation to the mass protest include activists Figo Chan, Albert Ho, Cyd Ho, “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, Avery Ng and Yeung Sum.

Albert Ho, Cyd Ho, Leung Kwok-hung, Raphael Wong, Figo Chan, Avery Ng, Yeung Sum.
From left to right: Albert Ho, Cyd Ho, Leung Kwok-hung, Raphael Wong, Figo Chan, Avery Ng, Yeung Sum. Photo: HKFP Remix.

Other submissions made to the court on Friday included a letter written by Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a Filipino foreign domestic worker who made international headlines in 2014 after suffering severe abuse at the hands of her employers.

Sulistyaningsih wrote that Leung and Ng had had worked “tirelessly” for domestic worker rights and had both personally offered her support, Sing Tao reported.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.