Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders were arrested and sentenced to prison on Wednesday following their involvement in a series of protests created in resistance to the Chinese Communist Party’s tightening control of the territory.
Joshua Wong received the heaviest sentence with 13 and a half months in prison, Agnes Chow was sentenced to 10 months, and Ivan Lam received seven months. While Wong has been charged in other cases, Chow is still facing potential charges of inciting secession and all of the activists are subject to further scrutiny from the Chinese government.
Shortly after they were sentenced, Wong was forced into solitary confinement for three days “because a scan had suggested he might have ingested a foreign object before his detention.” Wong wrote a letter posted to Twitter on Tuesday saying that the conditions were difficult.
“Even though I have been imprisoned three times and have the experience, I still found it difficult to be sent suddenly to the ‘prison within a prison,'” he wrote.
Chow also said that “she was not adjusting well to conditions in detention and was unable to sleep at night.”
“I understand that I will probably be sentenced to prison on Wednesday, so my morale has been low, and I’ve been very worried,” she reportedly said.
Wong, Chow, and Lam were all part of a pro-democracy political party Demosisto, which disbanded shortly before the communist National People’s Congress passed a new “security” law in July that criminalizes regular protest activity as “terrorism” for disrupting traffic, “subversion” for disrupting any government agents, and “secession” for groups speaking of potential independence. Any attempt by protest groups to work with the members of the international community was also made a criminal offense.
Violators of the new legislation were subjected to harsh punishments including potential life in prison.
The activists previously pleaded guilty for participating in what was deemed an “unauthorized assembly” in front of police headquarters in June of last year when the pro-democracy protest movement first began to gain international attention.
As noted by the New York Times, both Wong and Lam, eventually joined by Chow, were influential in organizing and lifting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement off of the ground. Nearly 10 years ago, the activists recognized the influence the Chinese Communist Party was having on their generation and began to coordinate protests against a “national education curriculum in Hong Kong schools, which they considered ‘brainwashing.'”
The young activists also helped organize the Umbrella Movement, a series of campaigns and protests against “limits on direct elections in 2014.”
When urgency and awareness picked up about the Hong Kongers’ fight for freedom in 2019 following protests over China’s intention to extradite criminal offenders to be tried in mainland China, they rose into the international spotlight as leaders of the movement.