HONG KONG (Reuters) - Joshua Wong, 24, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy activists, was jailed on Wednesday for 13-1/2 months after pleading guilty to charges of organising and inciting an unlawful assembly during last year’s anti-government protests.
WHO IS JOSHUA WONG?
Wong rose to international prominence as one of the leaders of Hong Kong’s 2014 student-led Umbrella democracy protests, in which roads in the heart of the financial centre were blocked for 79 days.
Two years earlier at the age of 15, and with the help of secondary school activists who formed a group called Scholarism, he forced the Hong Kong government to shelve plans to introduce a pro-China national education scheme in schools.
A familiar face at Hong Kong protests, Wong is also no stranger to jail. He spent five weeks in jail last year - his third stint - for contempt of court, before being released in June when anti-government demonstrations were already in full swing.
The bespectacled activist was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his leading role in the Umbrella movement.
Wong’s pro-democracy group Demosisto disbanded hours after China passed a national security law in June that punishes what it broadly defines as sedition, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces with up to life in jail.
He is one of more than a dozen young, more confrontational politicians who outshone old guard democrats in unofficial opposition primary elections in July.
Many saw the election as a protest against national security legislation that Beijing imposed on the city on June 30. Wong was also among 12 opposition candidates disqualified from running for a seat in the city’s legislature in elections due to be held in September but which were postponed due to COVID-19.
While Wong was not a leading figure of the often violent protests that shook the semi-autonomous financial hub last year, he has galvanised support for the pro-democracy movement abroad.
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.
“If my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kong and step up concrete efforts to defend our last bit of freedom,” Wong said when he stepped down from Demosisto in June.
Wong has also written opinion articles in international newspapers as he has grown from a skinny, boyish looking teenage protester into an international lobbyist.
BRUSHES WITH AUTHORITIES:
Wong has been repeatedly detained for his role in organising pro-democracy rallies. In 2018, he was sentenced to a second jail term of three months for what a judge described as his “leading” role in protests.
Wong faces multiple charges related to the protests last year 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.
Reporting by Anne Marie Roantree and Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Kim Coghill
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