Occupy Central

Food, haircuts and prison pay – what Hong Kong Occupy leaders Joshua Wong and Nathan Law thought about life behind bars

The duo, released on bail on Tuesday pending appeal, share memories of their 69-day confinement

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, 1:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 October, 2017, 10:54pm

Pro-democracy student leaders Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Nathan Law Kwun-chung were jailed for staunchly pursuing their ideals, but during their 69-day confinement, thinking about the little things kept them going.

Law said he pondered the choices he actually had, such as what to eat for his next meal and whether the allowance he got in prison would be enough to buy snacks.

Even though he could access television and newspapers, “[the environment] causes you to be distanced from the big events and what is happening outside,” Law said.

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Wong said he was struck by the rigid prison timetable, where one “could not have independent thinking”.

“Outside jail, you can decide what to do with the 24 hours of every day, but in prison, [what you have to do] for every minute and second has been arranged for you,” said Wong, who spent about two months in a juvenile correctional facility before being transferred to an adult prison after he turned 21 earlier in October.

When Wong asked guards if inmates could grow their hair to 1cm long instead of a 6mm buzz cut, he was warned not to “incite other prisoners to be concerned about the matter”.

The duo, released on bail on Tuesday pending their appeals, shared their memories of their time behind bars on a radio programme on Wednesday. They presented a picture of defiance after walking free, vowing to continue their fight for greater democracy.

Watch: Occupy student leaders Joshua Wong and Nathan Law speak to the media

The Demosisto party activists were convicted alongside former Federation of Students leader Alex Chow Yong-kang, over their roles at a protest that led to a 79-day occupation of major roads across Hong Kong in 2014 in the name of civil disobedience for greater democracy.

Wong and Law completed the community service handed down last year by a magistrate. Chow had been given a suspended jail term. But in August, after a review sought by the government, the Court of Appeal found those terms manifestly inadequate and gave them jail time instead.

The Demosisto pair also highlighted positive experiences behind bars. Law said he was able to spend time reading and writing, allowing him to reflect on his life in the last few years. Wong said he was glad to meet people from all walks of life and hear their views on society, such as what they thought of the education system, and why they chose to go down the path they had taken.

Asked about their appeal, Law said the last few trials had taught him to “prepare for the worst”, so that he could face any outcome.

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The duo also commented on recent political events.

On the Education Bureau’s encouragement of schools to voluntarily watch a live broadcast of a Basic Law forum, Law said this amounted to pressure on schools to comply. The line-up of speakers at the forum on November 16 is widely believed to include Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the mainland’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.