Occupy Central poster boy Joshua Wong returns to Hong Kong jail despite winning appeal for lighter sentence

South China Morning Post

The face of the 2014 protests was previously found guilty of contempt after not leaving a site in Mong Kok that judges had ordered cleared

South China Morning Post |

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Joshua Wong delivers a speech outside the chief executive's office in Admiralty during the Occupy protests in 2014.

Despite winning an appeal for a lighter sentence, Occupy Central poster boy Joshua Wong Chi-fung was thrown back in jail on Thursday for a conviction related to the 2014 Occupy protests.

Wong, the Hong Kong student activist who became the most recognised organiser of the biggest civil disobedience movement in the city’s history, was jailed for three months in January last year after pleading guilty to contempt of court for failing to leave a protest site. A court had ordered the site to be cleared at the time. The 22-year-old lodged an appeal after being sentenced and was released on bail after six days in prison. On Thursday, the Court of Appeal reduced his term to two months, but refused to set aside the jail sentence.

Wong has been jailed for remaining in Mong Kok, one of the protest strongholds in Kowloon, on November 26, 2014, despite court orders sought by taxi and minibus groups to clear it. Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai, the sentencing judge, described Wong’s role as “leading and significant”. But Wongs lawyer argued that his involvement was not particularly active. 

Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor, one of the three judges who ruled on the appeal, said the court was inclined to impose a deterrent sentence in contempt cases because offenders presented “a direct challenge to the rule of law, the very fabric and foundation of Hong Kong”.

Police fire tear gas at protesters on Harcourt Road in Admiralty at the start of the Occupy protest.
Photo: K.Y. Cheng/SCMP

An immediate jail term was therefore appropriate, he said.

“Any suggestion [Wong] is being punished because of his status or notoriety as a committed social activist or any other reason, whatever it might be, is entirely baseless and misconceived,” he added.

But Poon said the original judge had not taken into consideration Wong’s age when he sentenced him, so the appeal court decided to reduce his sentence by a month. Wong, who shouted encouragement to his supporters before prison officers led him away, described the jail term he faced as “a piece of cake”, compared with that of other activists.

Two founders of the Occupy movement, Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Dr Chan Kin-man, were jailed for 16 months in April and independence activist Edward Leung Tin-kei was sentenced to six years over his role in the Mong Kok riot in 2016.

“No matter what happens, I hope people will never forget the spirit of the umbrella movement and we will continue to fight for free elections,” Wong said, using another name for the sit-ins of 2014.

He urged people to speak out against the government’s recent controversial proposal to allow an exchange of fugitives with mainland China.

Agnes Chow Ting, Wong’s Demosisto colleague, said the pro-democracy group was disappointed by the court’s decision and would discuss with Wong and his lawyers whether to take the appeal further.

Wong was also jailed two years ago for storming government buildings two days before the Occupy protests began. That jail sentence was eventually overturned by the Court of Final Appeal.

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