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article imageHong Kong activists fear more jailings after Wong imprisoned

By Aaron TAM (AFP)     Aug 18, 2017 in World

Hong Kong democracy campaigners raised fears Friday that they too would be jailed after the city's Beijing-backed government succeeded in putting Joshua Wong and two other prominent young activists behind bars.

Supporters and rights groups said the sentencing Thursday was further proof that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city and that rule of law is being compromised.

Around a hundred protesters gathered at the jail where two of the trio are being held on Friday night chanting "Civil disobedience!"

Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland after being handed back to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" deal, but there is increasing concern those rights are disappearing.

Wong, Nathan Law and Alex Chow were handed sentences of six to eight months by the Court of Appeal for their role in 2014's massive Umbrella Movement protests, which called for fully free leadership elections and were an unprecedented challenge to Beijing.

The court overturned previous non-custodial sentences saying they were too light and did not serve as a deterrent to activists who were undermining stability in Hong Kong.

Nine more democracy campaigners -- including the three "Occupy Central" founders who first called for residents to protest on the streets in 2014 -- are due to appear in court in September over their part in the Umbrella Movement.

A general view of the Pik Uk correctional facility in Hong Kong on August 18  2017  where Joshua Won...
A general view of the Pik Uk correctional facility in Hong Kong on August 18, 2017, where Joshua Wong, a leader of Hong Kong's 'Umbrella Movement', is currently being held
Isaac Lawrence, AFP

All face public nuisance charges which carry maximum sentences of seven years.

Occupy founder Benny Tai, 53, who is among the nine, told AFP that he was now bracing for a jail term.

"Personally, I am prepared in my own case -- it's likely that there will be imprisonment," Tai said.

Tai added that the court had ignored the principle of civil disobedience.

"It sets a kind of guiding principle for lower courts to follow in dealing with cases of this kind," Tai said.

- 'Unhealthy trend' -

Britain said it hoped the sentencing would not discourage "legitimate protest" in future. US politicians Marco Rubio and Nancy Pelosi condemned the judgement.

But Beijing defended the sentences.

"Hong Kong people are fully entitled to rights and freedoms. But no one can use the excuse of so-called democracy and freedom to conduct illegal violent activities," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday.

Judge Wally Yeung said in sentencing that there had been an "unhealthy trend" of people in Hong Kong breaking the law for the sake of their ideals and having what he described as "arrogant and self-righteous ideas".

The justice ministry, which brought the re-sentencing bid, said the judgement could "provide guidance to future cases of similar nature", but insisted there was no political motive.

Joshua Wong (C) speaks between Nathan Law (L) and Alex Chow  leaders of Hong Kong's 'Umbre...
Joshua Wong (C) speaks between Nathan Law (L) and Alex Chow, leaders of Hong Kong's 'Umbrella Movement', as he addresses the media before their sentencing
Anthony Wallace, AFP/File

Wong, 20, is spending the second night of his six-month sentence in Pik Uk high security prison for young male offenders. Law and Chow are at maximum security holding centre Lai Chi Kok.

Activists gathered at Lai Chi Kok Friday night including former lawmaker Lee Wing-tat who is one of the nine campaigners facing court next month. He too said he was preparing for jail and warned the penalty against the trio would discourage the public from protesting against the government.

Democracy campaigner Derek Lam said Wong was not demoralised after visiting him Friday.

"I saw firmness in his eyes. He is still the Joshua Wong we know who stands on the frontlines," he said, adding that Wong had pledged to read as much as he could in jail.

Lam said he had delivered him a set of books on Taiwan's journey from dictatorship to democracy.

Wong's mother Grace also visited him Friday.

In an emotional letter penned before his sentencing and displayed on his party's Facebook page, she wrote: "My dear son Joshua, why has Hong Kong fallen like this? To treat the children of this generation like this?"

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