Sentence of Joshua Wong, fellow HK secessionists rings bell for HK youngsters
Published: Dec 02, 2020 08:57 PM

A journalist films two young leaders of violent protests in Hong Kong, Agnes Chow Ting (left) and Joshua Wong Chi-fung (right) as they speak to the press in 2019. Photo: AFP

The sentences given on Wednesday to three high-profile Hong Kong secessionists, including Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow, were termed by observers as an "alarm-ringing" lesson for the city's youngsters, some of whom have been poisoned by the rioters' bad influence. 

Hong Kong secessionist Joshua Wong Chi-fung was sentenced to 13.5 months in prison on two charges related to the siege of the Hong Kong police headquarters in June 2019. Fellow secessionist Agnes Chow received 10 months, and Ivan Lam seven months. 

The three former leaders of the now-disbanded secessionist social group Demosisto admitted to inciting people to join an unauthorized assembly on June 21, 2019, which carries a maximum penalty of three years' imprisonment. They received their sentences in court on Wednesday. 

Wong faced three charges and entered guilty pleas to two counts of organizing and inciting others to take part in an unauthorized assembly. He was acquitted of the charge of participating in an unauthorized assembly. 

Video of Agnes Chow crying after the sentencing went viral on social media, with many netizens saying she was shedding "crocodile tears to win sympathy." One netizen asked "Don't you label yourself a revolutionary? Well, revolution requires blood and courage. Isn't it too cheap to shed tears for a 10-month sentence?"

Tang Fei, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said that the sentences of the three represent an "alarm-ringing" lesson for some of the city's youngsters, who have been poisoned by their bad influence. 

Those rioters, especially Joshua Wong, have been calling on people to take to the street and inciting secessionism for so long, without being punished. Now the legal punishment imposed on them will also deter youngsters who want to follow in their footsteps, according to Tang. 

 "The verdict shows progress in Hong Kong's judicial practice, which has shown a tendency toward over-light sentencing, but is now showing legal deterrence to secessionists," Tian Feilong, a Hong Kong affairs expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

 "Hong Kong judges are beginning to realize the importance of public order, and they are no longer simply allowing rioters to undermine the rule of law," Tian said. 

The expert said he hoped that the sentences given to the three would serve as a "watershed" moment for the rule of law in Hong Kong to return to the track of legal rationality, so that those who break the law will be held accountable, and Hong Kong will return to the normal state of governance in accordance with the law.

In November, the three entered guilty pleas to a number of charges related to the June 2019 siege, which experts said could be "another political performance." 

Also on Wednesday, Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai, owner of the notorious Apple Daily, together with his two sons and seven senior officials of Next Digital Media, reported to the police. They are expected to face charges related to conspiracy to defraud and illegal assembly.

The arrest, however, stirred controversy in Western media outlets, which described it as the latest blow to the city's political opposition. Joshua Wong himself vowed on Twitter after his arrest that "it is not the end of the fight."

Fan Peng, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Political Sciences, told the Global Times that the secessionists are likely to trot out their jail experience later for political capital, where they can use it for hype.

"But their attempt will only be like an ant trying to topple a giant tree. As Hong Kong is rapidly returning to rationality, any attempt to shake the city's hard-won stability will be discarded and despised," said Fan.