Tiananmen Square protest leader tells Joshua Wong to study in prison as details emerge of Hong Kong activists’ first night behind bars
Three pro-democracy activists jailed for unlawful assembly have heads shaved, fingerprints taken and a medical check-up after they are sent to prison
The first night behind bars for Joshua Wong Chi-fung and his fellow student activists included a medical check-up, being allocated numbers and putting on their brown prison uniforms.
Their heads were shaved and fingerprints taken while not so much as a crumb of birthday cake was on offer for Alex Chow Yong-kang, who turned 27 on Friday.
Meanwhile, former Tiananmen protest leader Wang Dan, who was jailed for his role in China’s 1989 pro-democracy movement, advised Wong to make good use of every minute to study well in prison.
After the court sent Wong to Pik Uk maximum security institution near Sai Kung and Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Chow to Lai Chi Kok reception centre on Thursday evening, they had to go through X-ray body scans to check for any forbidden items.
The trio spent their first night in hospital in the two prisons for medical check-ups and assessment.
A prison source said Chow did not receive any special treatment at taxpayers’ expense for his birthday. He was given a plain fish and egg dinner just like other prisoners.
“He will not have any extra dishes or a cake just because it is his birthday,” the insider said. “He is just like any other prisoner and has to follow rules and routines.”
Watch: Student leaders jailed for storming government compound
It is understood the trio had beef, vegetables and rice for breakfast on Friday, congee for lunch, and fish, egg, vegetables and rice for dinner. Milk and bread could be given as a late night snack.
Wong, because of his young age, has to march military-style to the canteen for meals and clean his own toilet.
Relatives and friends of the trio visited them separately on Friday afternoon. Demosisto member Derek Lam Shun-hin said Wong was in good shape and was trying to adapt to the new environment.
“He did not feel depressed or stressed. He asked us to hold on,” Lam said after visiting with Wong’s mother, adding that he had brought him six books and some daily necessities.
Former student leader Lester Shum said Law would be able to sleep at night but needed time to get used to the food.
Chow and Law, who were temporarily kept in the reception centre, were moved to a bigger cell at night, sharing it with up to seven other prisoners.
The insider said prison officials would decide on Monday where the duo should serve the rest of their sentences.
Wong will have to study and attend vocational training in Pik Uk institution. The source said Wong would be moved to another correctional facility after he turned 21 in October.
In an open letter to Wong, Wang advised the student leader to read as much as possible because there was no better place to study than prison.
“It does not only give you knowledge, but also enhances your critical thinking,” Wang wrote. “Through reading, you can build a mental sanctuary in your heart in an environment without freedom.”
He also advised the Demosisto secretary general to exercise regularly as jail time would greatly affect his health.
Meanwhile, Wong’s mother, Grace Ng Chau-mei, urged her son to “follow the truth and be courageous”, as she expressed disappointment that the justice department had decided to seek jail terms for the student leaders.
She suggested the city had become “depraved” with the government’s pursuit of the trio.
In a letter written to her son before his sentence was handed down on Thursday, Ng said Wong, 20, had sacrificed personal and family time since first becoming a political activist in May 2011 for the sake of “building a more beautiful Hong Kong”.
“The justice department vowed to imprison them based on what they said ... and to eliminate young people’s passion and ideals, as well as their vision and commitment to society,” she wrote.
“Why is Hong Kong so depraved now to be treating this generation of children like this?”
With good conduct in prison, inmates can see their jail terms reduced by one third, which means Wong could be set free in mid-December at the earliest. The others could be freed in January.