HONG KONG (Reuters) - Less than a week after being jailed for unlawful assembly, Hong Kong democracy leader Joshua Wong was summoned again to court on Tuesday for an ongoing contempt of court charge related to the 2014 “Occupy” pro-democracy protests.
Wong, 20, was jailed on Thursday for six months by Hong Kong’s second highest court for a separate incident during the protests, dealing a blow to the youth-led push for universal suffrage in Hong Kong and prompting accusations of political interference.
Wong had been sentenced last year to community service for unlawful assembly, but the Department of Justice in the former British colony applied for a review, seeking imprisonment.
Tuesday’s hearing involves a separate, overlapping charge for Wong related to a court-ordered clearance of a large protest site during the 2014 civil disobedience movement that Wong helped lead.
Another student leader, Lester Shum, also faces the same charge alongside 18 other defendants, including Raphael Wong, who is not related to Joshua Wong.
Joshua Wong and 10 others have already “admitted liability” to contempt of court for defying a court injunction to clear away a protest encampment in the Mong Kok district after nearly 79 days of street occupations, that later sparked sporadic violent clashes between police and protesters.
According to Hong Kong law there is no maximum penalty for contempt of court, one defense lawyer told Reuters, and it is up to the discretion of the presiding judge.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to decry the jailing of Wong, and two other democracy activists - Nathan Law and Alex Chow - for between six and eight months.
Some protesters held up placards during the demonstration, one of the largest in recent years, that said “Shame on Rimsky”, referring to Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen. Reuters reported earlier that Yuen had overruled other senior legal officials when they initially advised against pursuing prison terms for the three activists.
Wong was taken to court in a prison van, and appeared relaxed with a buzz haircut after having spent five nights in jail, pumping his fist in the air at one point.
“Many people protested on Sunday. Thank you so much,” he shouted out from the dock.
Shum, another former student leader, told reporters the young democracy activists could stay relaxed and determined, “because Hong Kong people are standing with political prisoners”.
He was flanked by a group of clapping supporters who carried banners with the slogans: “Umbrella movement is indomitable. Civil disobedience is fearless.”
Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, however, said on Monday the jailed activists aren’t “political prisoners”, addressing spreading international criticism over the jail terms, including from countries such as the United States and Germany.
Hong Kong’s Department of Justice said in a statement that the cases were handled “according to the applicable laws and that there is no question of political persecutions.”
Additional reporting by Christine Chan; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Michael Perry