U.S. lawmakers criticize Hong Kong sentencing

Friday, 04 Dec, 2020

Pro-democracy activists Ivan Lam and Joshua Wong walk to a prison van to head to court, after pleading guilty to charges of organising and inciting an unauthorised assembly near the police headquarters during last year's anti-government protests, in Hong Kong, China December 2, 2020.

"We have conveyed our concerns to China about Hong Kong at various opportunities", he said.

The June 21, 2019 siege of police headquarters in Wan Chai happened early on in the protests against the now-withdrawn extradition bill, which would have allowed anyone in Hong Kong to be sent to the mainland to stand trial.

Lai, 73 years old, has been accused of breaching a land lease by subletting the company's headquarters in Hong Kong, where fraud is an offense that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

Outside the court building, a handful of pro-Beijing supporters had called for "severe punishment" to the activists.

"I know the coming days will be tougher". Teen origins Despite his youth, Wong has already spent time in prison for leading democracy protests and has said he is prepared for more time behind bars.

Wong has met politicians from the United States, Europe and elsewhere, drawing the wrath of Beijing, which says he is a "black hand" of foreign forces. The protests kicked off a movement for freedom in Hong Kong that garnered global attention and has continued for more than a year.

Ahead of sentencing, the district court judge read a letter from Wong's mother to the court in which she said her son was "a young person who cares about society and is persistent in his ideals".

A trio of young Hong Kong opposition activists have been sentenced after pleading guilty to organizing a demonstration previous year as part of a larger protest against Hong Kong's receding autonomy.

Officials and rights groups around the world swiftly condemned the ruling.

"Once again, the government has used the politically motivated charge of "inciting others to protest" to prosecute people who have merely spoken out and protested peacefully", said the group's Asia-Pacific regional director, Yamini Mishra.

USA senator Marsha Blackburn accused China of cracking down on human rights and destroying "any semblance of autonomy in Hong Kong".

Wong, Chow and Lam, 26, joined Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement when they were in their teens.

The pro-democracy movement in the former British colony suffered a major blow in May when Beijing announced it would bypass the Hong Kong legislature and impose a sweeping new national security law that effectively made protesting against authorities illegal.

The pair along with activist Ivan Lam were remanded in custody on November 23 after the court found the three guilty of inciting or taking part in the June 21, 2019, event in which mostly young protesters besieged police headquarters.

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Wong faced multiple charges related to the protests a year ago and for participating in an illegal assembly on June 4, 2020, to commemorate the crackdown on pro-democracy students in and around Tiananmen Square in 1989.