Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong pleads guilty to illegal assembly
HONG KONG, Nov. 23 (Reuters) – Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong pleaded guilty on Monday to organizing and participating in an unauthorized rally near police headquarters during last year’s anti-government protests.
Wong, who was only 17 when he became the face of the student-led Umbrella Movement democracy protests in 2014, faces a maximum prison sentence of five years if convicted.
Before entering the courtroom, Wong said he would not be surprised if immediate detention ensued.
“Maybe the authorities want me to stay in prison one term at a time,” Wong said.
“But I have no doubts that neither prison bars, nor electoral bans, nor any other arbitrary power would prevent us from engaging in activism. What we are doing now is explaining the value of freedom to the world. “
Wong was not a figurehead in last year’s pro-democracy and anti-China protests, but his continued activism has drawn the ire of Beijing, which sees him as a “black hand” of foreign forces.
He disbanded his pro-democracy group Demosisto in June, just hours after the Chinese parliament passed a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong, punishing anything Beijing sees as subversion, secession, terrorism. and collusion with foreign forces, up to life imprisonment.
His longtime fellow activist Agnes Chow has already pleaded guilty to charges related to the same June 2019 protest, while Ivan Lam, another former colleague of Demosisto, was also due to plead guilty.
Wong is also accused of participating in an unauthorized rally in October 2019 and June 4, 2020 on the occasion of a vigil commemorating the crackdown on protesters in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.
Earlier this year, Wong was disqualified along with 11 other politicians and pro-democracy activists from running in the since postponed election for the city legislature.
Wong spent five weeks in jail last year for contempt of court, before being released on June 16 when the protests were already in full swing.
The repeated arrests of Wong and other activists have drawn criticism from Western governments who say China is failing to fulfill its obligation to grant Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, agreed with the former colonial master British when the city returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China denies the accusation and says Hong Kong is its domestic affair. (Reporting by Joyce Zhou and Jessie Pang; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry)