Joshua Wong Pleads Guilty to 2019 Protest Charges


Image Courtesy of Reuters

Anushka Elavia, Staff Writer

During a court hearing on Monday, Joshua Wong, the Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, pleaded guilty to unauthorized assembly charges over a protest outside police headquarters last year. In June of 2019, thousands of protesters gathered outside of the Hong Kong Police Headquarters in the Wan Chai district of the city, where they blocked the exits, threw eggs, and vandalized the exterior, in a response to excessive police force used during earlier protests. Fellow activists, Agnes Chow and Liam Lam, who were also members of the since-disbanded group Demosisto, were also placed in custody after pleading guilty; the three individuals will be sentenced on December 2nd. Although Wong, who has been arrested on multiple occasions and was last jailed for two months in 2019 for contempt of court, may face up to three years in prison according to his lawyer; he described the charges he faced as minimal compared to the consequences for other activists. Before leaving the court, Wong proclaimed “Everyone hang in there – add oil,” a commonly used phrase of encouragement during demonstrations. 

Wong, 24, rose to prominence as a teenage leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, becoming one of the most recognizable pro-democracy leaders outside of Hong Kong – traveling to capitals around the world to represent the movement. His most recent arrest was part of an expansive crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory that began after Beijing implemented a controversial national security law, which bans secession, sedition, terrorism, and foreign interference, in response to the pro-democracy protests of last year. In fact, in September, Chinese authorities detained twelve activists who were attempting to flee to Taiwan. The families of those detainees recently received letters stating they are being well-taken care of, although those individuals are denied access to lawyers, visitors, and even medical treatment. After the court hearing on Monday, Wong encouraged his followers to shift their attention to the plight of those individuals, also known as the Hong Kong 12. 

Although Wong was not charged under the security law, in recent months, Hong Kong authorities have arrested the billionaire owner of a popular newspaper in the city, an investigative journalist with public broadcaster RTHK, and eight pro-democracy members of the city’s Legislative Council – stressing the active suppression of rising voices. “I am persuaded that neither prison bars, nor election ban, nor any other arbitrary powers would stop us from activism,” Wong said before court on Monday. While temporarily penalized, the trio of influential activists plan to move forward in their fight for justice and democracy.