Three student leaders of Hong Kong’s so-called Umbrella Movement that rattled the island nation three years ago, including Joshua Wong, were sentenced up to 8 months in prison, drawing criticism from the opposition and rights group.
The arrest of Mr. Wong, Alex Chow (26), and Nathan Law (24) came after the Department of Justice appealed their non-prison sentence last year for unlawful assembly. The student leaders who had become the face of the pro-democracy gathering under the rain in this rich former British colony were also banned from running for office for five years.
President of Washington-based Freedom House Michael J. Abramowitz said on Thursday that by imprisoning the student leaders, Hong Kong’s courts showed their ”subservience to authorities in Beijing, and their willingness to suppress the political rights and civil liberties of all Hong Kongers.” He hailed the imprisoned leaders as “heroes, not criminals.”
The sentence on Thursday also raised speculations that Hong Kong has increasingly been bowing to Beijing’s pressure. Rights groups argue that there is a downward trend in freedoms promised to people in Hong Kong after Britain handed the island over to China 20 years ago.
Minutes before the sentencing, Mr. Wong tweeted: “They can silence protests, remove us from the legislature and lock us up. But they will not win the hearts and minds of Hongkongers.” As the judge delivered the verdict, handing down a 6-month jail sentence to Mr. Wong, the 20 years old activist punched his fist in the air and said Hong Kong people don’t give up.