Three pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have been sentenced to serve jail time for their involvement in demonstrations against the Chinese Communist Party's increasing attempts to assume total control over the once-autonomous territory last year.
Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and Ivan Lam were found guilty of organizing and taking part in the mass protests near police headquarters last June, the BBC reported Wednesday. The protests kicked off a movement for freedom in Hong Kong that garnered international attention and has continued for more than a year.
Wong received a sentence of 13.5 months in jail, while Chow and Lam were sentenced to 10 and 7 months, respectively. The activists had been held in police custody prior to the sentencing, with Wong under solitary confinement, the British outlet noted.
Magistrate Wong Sze-lai argued that "immediate imprisonment [was] the only appropriate option" for the defendants after they "called on protesters to besiege the headquarters and chanted slogans that undermine the police force."
According to reports, Chow burst into tears after the verdict was read, while Wong shouted "the days ahead will be tough but we will hang in there" as he was led away by authorities.
In further remarks posted on Twitter by his lawyers, Wong said, "It's not the end of the fight ... we're now joining the battle in prison along with many brave protestors, less visible yet essential in the fight for democracy and freedom for HK."
#JoshuaWong 13.5m in jail - via lawyers, “it’s not the end of the fight. Ahead of us is another challenging battleg… https://t.co/iW320jxeeE— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷) 1606897435.0
The pro-democracy movement in the former British colony suffered a major blow in May when Beijing announced it would bypass the Hong Kong legislature and impose a sweeping new national security law that effectively made protesting against authorities illegal.
Under the new law, the activists could have been sentenced to life in prison for their actions. However, since their offenses took place before the law's enactment, they were spared such a fate.
At the time, prominent pro-democracy legislator Dennis Kwok warned the enactment of the new law marked the end of the "one country, two systems" principle that had governed Hong Kong's relationship with China since Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the communist country in 1997.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed with the assessment, officially declaring that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous.
"Beijing's disastrous decision [to impose the law] is only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms and China's own promises to the Hong Kong people under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a U.N.-filed international treaty," Pompeo said in a statement.
[This] decision gives me no pleasure," he added before noting that it is the State Department's responsibility under the Hong Kong Policy Act to assess the territory's autonomy.