Hong Kong student activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung has said his party will send its “most capable” members to run in the coming elections if he ends up being jailed after an appeal court ruling today.
The Demosisto secretary general also stressed that recent events had not caused him to lose faith in social movements, despite 13 other activists – originally spared jail due to their “noble cause”– being sentenced to prison by the same court on Tuesday.
“[I am] absolutely not in despair, absolutely not lost,” he said on Thursday.
Wong and two fellow former student activists – Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Alex Chow Yong-kang – were convicted of either taking part or inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly when protesters stormed the government headquarters on September 26, 2014. The demonstrators had wanted to reclaim what they called “Civic Square”, an area popular with protesters. That was a prelude to the Occupy protests, the 79-day pro-democracy sit-ins which started fully two days later.
The three were originally spared jail and given various lengths of community service. Presiding magistrate June Cheung Tin-ngan took a lenient and understanding attitude towards the young trio, who she said held genuine political ideals.
But prosecutors returned to the Court of Appeal last week to argue that the sentence was insufficient and would send the wrong message to the public, especially young people.
A jail sentence for Wong and Law – a former Demosisto legislator who was disqualified over improper oath-taking – could mean they might not be able to run in any Legislative Council by-elections arising from the unseating of Law and five other pro-democracy and pro-independence lawmakers.
If they are imprisoned for more than three months, Wong and Law would also be banned from running for a Legco seat for five years.
In that case, Wong said: “Demosisto will be able to find the most capable one to run.”
He said he did not feel lost or in despair, even with a possible jail term looming.
“Civil disobedience is about taking responsibility,” he said. But he accused the Department of Justice of exaggerating the level of violence at the protest to make it seem like a riot.
Wong insisted he had never resorted to violence. Instead, he said, the authorities had been the ones inflicting “institutional violence”, via moves such as the new town development project in the northeastern New Territories.
A protest over the new town project was what got 13 other activists jailed for between eight to 13 months on Tuesday after prosecutors also had their sentences reviewed in a separate bid. The prosecutors successfully argued that the community service handed down by the presiding magistrate, who had been sympathetic to the protesters’ “noble cause”, was not sufficient to reflect the violence involved.
That ruling prompted hundreds to show up at a rally, organised by a concern group against the controversial development plan, to show support for Wong’s trio, as well as the 13 protesters.
“Let me make a deal with all Hong Kong citizens,” Law said as he addressed the crowd.
“When dozens of us political prisoners are in jail, could you, who are still free, fight for us on the streets?” he pleaded.
“When we return,” he continued, “can we go further and higher with your support?”
He called on the masses not to be defeated by sadness and said that any clampdown from the authorities would only make him and his supporters stronger.
As for Chow, a jail sentence would disrupt his pursuit of a master’s degree at the London School of Economics, which is near completion, as well as his plan to start a doctorate in the US.