BREAKING NEWS Albert Lea suspect booked into jail after Sunday's shootings, standoff; more charges likely to come Full Story
CLOSINGS: View Closings

Joshua Wong faces prison again as 'slow drip' of prosecutions takes its toll

Joshua Wong is getting used to being in court.A month ago, Hong Kong's most high-profile pro-democracy activis...

Posted: Dec 8, 2017 9:13 AM
Updated: Dec 8, 2017 9:13 AM

Joshua Wong is getting used to being in court.

A month ago, Hong Kong's most high-profile pro-democracy activist was joking with his co-defendants and waving at family as the Court of Final Appeal granted him leave to challenge a six month jail sentence he received in August. On Thursday he was one of 16 in the dock, facing another, separate jail term.

That case was adjourned to a later date several hours into proceedings as judges needed more time to review a mountain of evidence provided in support of light sentences for the young defendants.

Wong's cases are among the dozens brought by prosecutors against pro-democracy protest leaders and lawmakers in the wake of 2014 demonstrations which shut down parts of the city for months on end.

These prosecutions, brought by the Hong Kong government and supported by its Beijing masters, are having a chilling effect on dissent and scaring the young protesters who had previously been the backbone of the pro-democracy movement away from politics, observers say.

"People who would otherwise be happy to join in and take part are now thinking twice," says Jason Ng, a member of the Progressive Lawyers Group, a pressure group.

"(They're thinking) it's really not worth putting my career at risk when the potential benefit is close to nothing."

Kong Tsung-gan, author of "Umbrella: A Political Tale from Hong Kong," Kong has tracked almost 40 civil and criminal cases against pro-democracy figures, some of which have already resulted in imprisonment, fines, and disqualification from the city's parliament.

He told CNN the scale and scope of the prosecutions, particularly the tough sentences for those convicted, are "unprecedented."

In the past, he said, "it has been the case that one activist here and another there would be prosecuted, and perhaps convicted of unlawful assembly and the like, but the person would normally receive a fine or a prison sentence not greater than three weeks."

Antony Dapiran, a Hong Kong lawyer and author of "City of Protest," said the "incessant slow drip of legal action over the course of this year has been... effective in keeping pressure on activists who do not know what and when the next government action will be, and (that is) therefore having a stifling effect on their activities."

A spokesman for Hong Kong's Department of Justice said "allegations of political prosecution or persecution are entirely unfounded," adding the DOJ is "committed to safeguarding the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong, as well as keeping criminal prosecutions free from any interference."

Chilling effect

The sheer number of cases has seen the city's pro-democracy movement enter a repetitive and energy-sapping cycle of court hearings, protests against the prosecutions, and vigils outside prison or judicial buildings.

While tens of thousands took to the streets to protest the initial jailing of Wong and other protest leaders -- including Nathan Law, who was the city's youngest lawmaker until he was disqualified from office in July -- demonstrations since have been somewhat lackluster.

Around 1,800 people joined a march led by Wong Sunday, which he had billed as perhaps his last part to protest with his supporters before he returned to jail.

Wong told the South China Morning Post he was "tired" and wanted to enjoy his "last weekend" before returning to jail.

"I'm satisfied that a group of Hong Kongers walked with me in my last rally today although not a lot of people came out," he said.

"It doesn't really matter to us how many people came out as long as we did our best and provided an opportunity for our supporters to show solidarity," pro-democracy icon "Long hair" Leung Kwok-hung -- who was also disqualified from office earlier this year -- told the paper.

Dapiran said the prosecutions were designed "to make the cost of dissent intolerably high, and to make in particular Hong Kong's politically active youth think twice about whether they are willing to pay an increasingly steep price -- jail, bankruptcy, the effect all of that might have on future careers -- to express their political views."

The 2014 protests were largely driven by high school and university students, who took to the city's streets in huge numbers and camped out for weeks on end. A small number of them went on to become lawmakers in 2016 elections. Of the cases Kong tracks, more than 60% of those facing prosecution are under 30.

"They want to say, If you confront us, we will destroy your life," Kong said.

Hong Kong's DOJ rejected the suggestion that it was prosecuting an unprecedented number of cases.

"The Occupy Movement is an unprecedented situation which involves a large number of participants," a spokesman said, referring to the 2014 protests. "The DOJ does not intentionally prosecute more people than it should do so."

Criminalizing speech

While prosecutors have found themselves well equipped to bring cases against protesters, thanks to draconian laws inherited from the British colonial administration, Beijing has recently put pressure on the city to pass new regulations further tightening restrictions on speech.

In particular, China's government has taken a harsh line on advocacy of Hong Kong independence, with President Xi Jinping warning in a visit to the city earlier this year such talk was a "red line" for Beijing.

In October, China introduced a new National Anthem Law, which punishes those who "disrespect" the song with up to 15 years in jail. That move comes after Hong Kong football fans repeatedly booed and jeered the "March of the Volunteers" as it played before their international matches.

More booing took place at a World Cup qualifier against Lebanon last month, and fans displayed banners with slogans like "Hong Kong is not China."

While the Chinese law currently does not apply to Hong Kong, it is being adopted into the city's statutes, and an amendment to the original law which would extend the punishment to a maximum of three years is being considered by Beijing.

Worse to come?

Hong Kong must accept it is part of "red China" and led by the Communist Party, a top Beijing official said during a visit to the city this week, following comments by another central government representative that Hong Kongers who challenge the party "have brains made of granite."

As Beijing takes a far tougher line against dissent within Hong Kong, many are fearful of the return of a proposed anti-sedition law which was defeated by mass street protests in 2003.

Article 23 of Hong Kong's constitution, Basic Law, calls on the city's government to "enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government," but so far, repeated administrations have dragged their feet on doing so.

Hong Kong already has laws against treason and sedition, but critics of Article 23 believe the criminalization of subversion and secession could enable the prosecution of a wide range of dissenting voices, particularly those who advocate or endorse Hong Kong independence.

"Trust in the Hong Kong government, not even to mention the (Communist) Party, is so low that any introduction of Article 23 legislation will be viewed as an attack on civil liberties," Kong said.

"In theory, Article 23 legislation could be used to effectively outlaw a broad spectrum of the pro-democracy movement."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
Worth3630
Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
Wayne3007
Audubon2962
Ringgold2112
Adams1702
Rochester
Clear
22° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 9°
Mason City
Few Clouds
23° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 14°
Albert Lea
Scattered Clouds
21° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 14°
Austin
Clear
23° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 12°
Charles City
Clear
25° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 13°
Colder Conditions To Start The Workweek
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Kindness tree on display in Rochester

Image

Advice for safe holiday decorating

Image

Aaron's Sunday Night Forecast

Image

Active shooter police standoff resolved after 9 hours

Image

Standoff in Albert Lea after 3 people shot

Image

Christmas tree shopping

Image

MC 'grateful' to play, adjusting with schedule changes

Image

Small business Saturday

Image

Sean's Weather 11/28

Image

Sidelined in quarantine: Coach Fennelly talks about his experience away from the game

Community Events