HK opposition trio Joshua Wong, Ivan Lam, and Agnes Chow face jail after pleading guilty to charges over police headquarters siege

25-Nov-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:51 AM Print This Post

Three Hong Kong opposition activists have been remanded in custody, after pleading guilty to charges stemming from their involvement in a 15-hour siege of the city’s police headquarters during the anti-government protest movement last year.

Joshua Wong Chi-fung, 24, Ivan Lam Long-yin, 26, and Agnes Chow Ting, 23, appeared at West Kowloon Court on Monday, where Wong and Lam had been expected to stand trial over their roles in the incident on June 21.

But both men, who previously entered not-guilty pleas, changed their minds before the six-day hearing was set to start. Chow had already pleaded guilty.

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“Even though they are guilty, I hope the court will consider their degrees of participation [in the siege],” said Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC, representing Wong and Chow.

Wong pleaded guilty to a charge of organising an unauthorised assembly, and another charge of inciting others to take part in the event. However, he denied knowingly taking part in an unauthorised assembly, and the prosecution decided to offer no evidence against him on this, effectively dropping this charge.

Lam pleaded guilty to a charge of incitement, while Chow had been charged with incitement and taking part in an unauthorised assembly.

The prosecution told the court on Monday that Wong actively played the role of a leader during the protest, and repeatedly gave out orders to demonstrators.

Numerous videos were played in court, showing Wong speaking to protesters through a loudspeaker outside police headquarters in Wan Chai. One clip showed him shouting that he hoped more people would join, while another captured him declaring that protesters had “completely besieged the police headquarters”.

In mitigation, lawyer Lok said Wong had joined social activities for many years and that his dedication had been widely recognised. A mitigation letter from a university academic said the activist was “honest and kind”.

Lok said he hoped the court could consider giving Wong a suspended sentence. The lawyer said his client was only 23 years old last year, and that during the siege, he had asked protesters to make way for paramedics to pass through.

For Chow, Lok said even though she was at the protest, she did not pick up the loudspeaker to say anything. A mitigation letter submitted to the court by a university academic said Chow was a humble, warm and empathetic girl who was “always willing to help others”.

Magistrate Wong Sze-lai made clear there was “potential risk for violence” at the incident, to which Lok said Wong did not take part in violent activities.

Barrister Jeffrey Tam, for activist Lam, said his client’s level of participation at the siege was low and that he was not seen in much of the footage played in court. Lam also did not incite protesters to damage any police facilities, the court was told. “I understand that there is the potential risk [of violence], but no one was injured,” Tam said.

Tam asked the court to consider giving Lam only a community service order. But Magistrate Wong immediately rejected the request, saying the activist already had four criminal records.

The trio will remain in custody until next Wednesday, when they will be sentenced.

As Wong was led out of the courtroom, he told supporters: “Hang in there everyone. Keep it up!”

Before appearing in court, Wong said the trio were prepared to face immediate jail terms, and hoped their stance would draw global attention to a criminal justice system he claimed was being “manipulated by Beijing”.

“Under the continuing crackdown against the city’s citizens, generations of youth [have gone] from protests to prisons to safeguard liberty for the place [in which] we were born,” he said. “Neither prison bars nor election bans, nor any other arbitrary power will stop us from activism.”

Chow said: “I may be sent to prison for the first time in my life. I am facing an uncertain future and I am indeed feeling uneasy about this. But I hope all of you will not forget the many people who have made bigger sacrifices than we did.”

Lam also said he was ready to be remanded and jailed. “Whether besieging the police headquarters is an offence or a necessary behaviour in fighting for democracy, I guess Hongkongers know the answer.”


Category: Hong Kong

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