Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and Ivan Lam face the prospect of jail after pleading guilty to charges relating to protests outside a police station last year.
The trial was scheduled to begin on Monday, but after pleading guilty they were taken away ahead of a sentencing hearing on Wednesday next week, where they face a penalty of up to five years in prison. Wong said he expected to be jailed.
Before leaving court, Wong shouted: “Everyone hang in there, add oil,” using a common protest cry.
The trio of high-profile pro-democracy activists and former politicians, were facing multiple charges over an unauthorised protest outside police headquarters in June last year, and inciting others to take part.
Wong and Lam had intended to fight the charges but on Sunday Wong said they had changed their minds on advice from lawyers. Chow, who was also arrested under the national security law in August, had already decided to plead guilty earlier this year.
Local media reported Wong pleaded guilty to organising and inciting the unauthorised assemble – which carries penalties of up to five years in prison – but not participation because the prosecution offered no evidence.
Lam reportedly pleaded guilty to incitement, while Chow had pleaded guilty to incitement and participation in the unauthorised demonstration.
Wong had earlier said their case was a mild one, with the charges stemming from early on in the protest movement which began with millions marching against an extradition bill before growing into a broader pro-democracy movement that saw increasingly violent clashes with police.
“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.
More than 10,000 protesters have been arrested over Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, many on questionable charges of rioting and unauthorised assembly that have not held up in court.
“It would not be surprising if I’m sent to immediate detention today,” Wong said on Facebook earlier. “It is the least ridiculous outcome among others that happened recently in Hong Kong. In the past three weeks, a total of 23 activists, journalists and councillors came under arrest. Everyday we have activists standing in trials, protestors sent to jail.”
It comes amid further arrests under Hong Kong and China’s crackdown on dissidents, and suspicious letters sent by 12 activists detained on the mainland to their families.
At least 31 people have been arrested under the national security law imposed by Beijing in late June, which outlaws a broad range of acts as sedition, secession, foreign collusion, and terrorism. On Saturday D100 radio host Wan Yiu-sing, his wife, and personal assistant were arrested over a fundraising drive to support Hong Kong youth who had fled to Taiwan, suspected of providing financial support for the commission of secession.
An unknown number of protesters facing charges in Hong Kong have fled overseas. Chinese coastguards intercepted a boat carrying 12 activists on their way to Taiwan. They have been held in a mainland detention centre ever since, with their families accusing authorities of denying the group access to lawyers, visitors, or medical treatment.
Last week, letters from the detainees were sent to family members, saying they were being well cared for, with three meals a day, good rest, hot water for showering, and medical care if required.
Beatrice Li, the brother of activist Andy Li who was the only person on board facing national security charges, said her family received their letter in the mail last week.
“The literal translation … paints a very humane picture and it’s almost like he’s refuting all the concerns raised by the outside world for the last three months,” Beatrice Li told the Guardian.
“He also said he hired lawyers, which we suspect are the so-called government appointed lawyers. The lawyers we hired have never been able to make contact with Andy. If the situation inside is really so nice why won’t [Chinese authorities] let someone visit him and bring back a message?” she said.
A plea for justice across the seas. Relatives of the #12HKyouths on Crooked Island in the remote NE corner of #HK. 3 mths after the #China coastguard intercepted their speedboat, the12 remain in legal limbo. On 1 balloon, the words “come back” as it drifted towards their SZ jail pic.twitter.com/FikqHRujuU
— James Pomfret (@jamespomfret) November 21, 2020
The letter also contained a personal warning, with Li telling his sister to stop her activism. “He said there was no future in doing so, and said he’s an example and told me not to end up like him. I feel it’s something he was forced to write. It doesn’t sound like him at all,” she said.
Beatrice said she believed the authorities wanted the world to forget about the 12.
“They tried to ask him to silence me, I think. If it makes me do anything differently, it’s that I will campaign even harder.”