One of the 47 pro-democracy figures facing a charge under Hong Kong’s national security law has pleaded guilty to rioting in 2019 in a separate case and been remanded in custody.
Wong Ji-yuet, 25, was one of just 13 defendants in the city’s largest national security case to date to be out on bail. She appeared in front of Deputy District Judge Stephanie Tsui at District Court on Monday morning.
Before entering the court building, Wong Ji-yuet made a heart-shape gesture to her family and friends, according to local media.
Wong Ji-yuet and eight others – Yung Tsz-yan, Chau Yiu-tin, Chung Wing-cheung, So Ho-yin, Suen Ka-ho, Tsang Siu-pang, Wong Hong-yu and Wong Man-shan – pleaded guilty to rioting on Nathan Road in Yau Ma Tei on November 18, 2019.
So was additionally charged with possessing an offensive weapon. However, that charge was kept on file after So pleaded guilty to rioting.
Pro-democracy demonstrators had rallied across different areas in Kowloon that day to show support for the protesters involved in a two-week long siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Six other defendants – Chung Yiu-hei, Jason Loh, Ng Chung-yin, Tang Kin-fun, Yan Nim-yin and Lee Tsz-chung – pleaded not guilty to the rioting charge.
After learning that Yung had only indicated her intention to plead guilty to her counsel on Sunday, Judge Tsui granted the prosecution a day to prepare documents and scheduled the next hearing on Tuesday.
Apart from So, all defendants were granted bail until Tuesday’s hearing. However, Wong Ji-yuet and Suen applied for their bail to be revoked and were remanded in custody.
Wong’s bail under national security charge
Wong Ji-yuet has been charged with conspiring to commit subversion together with 46 other prominent pro-democracy figures over an unofficial primary election ahead of the 2020 legislature election.
After being detained for 10 months while awaiting trial, Wong was granted bail in December 2021 on conditions including that she must not publish, share or forward commentaries, or commit acts that may endanger national security.
The former spokesperson for the now-disbanded student activist group Demosisto was among the few defendants to be granted bail under the stricter bail thresholds in national security cases. Most have been detained for almost two years before the subversion trial finally began this February.
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.