HONG KONG (Reuters) – Joshua Wong, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy activists and among 47 people charged under a national security law, was sentenced to four months in jail on Tuesday for unauthorized assembly and violating an anti-mask law.
Wong, 24, had pleaded guilty to both charges, including taking part in and using a facial covering at an unauthorized assembly in October 2019 during the height of anti-government protests, the court heard.
He had faced a maximum possible sentence of three years in jail. The sentence will extend a 13-and-a-half-month sentence he is already serving for organising an illegal assembly.
Wong, whom magistrate Daniel Tang called an “iconic figure”, thanked his supporters, some of who chanted, “I miss you” and “Hang in there.”
In October 2019, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam invoked colonial-era emergency powers for the first time in more than 50 years to enact a regulation banning face masks, which many pro-democracy protesters used to hide their identities from authorities.
Under the law, it was illegal to wear a mask at both lawful and unlawful assemblies. Offenders faced a maximum one year in jail and a HK$25,000 fine.
People who needed to wear masks for health, religious or job-related reasons were exempt, although critics said the ban was confusing.
Wong was among 47 democrats charged with conspiracy to commit subversion in late February under the city’s national security law for running in an unofficial primary election in July last year, the largest single crackdown on the opposition since the law was implemented.
He is currently serving a 13-and-a-half-month sentence for organising and inciting an unlawful assembly near the city’s police headquarters in June 2019.
The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of wide-ranging autonomy and freedoms that pro-democracy activists, who brought parts of the city to frequent halts in sometimes violent protests in 2019, say are being whittled away by Communist Party rulers in Beijing.
China denies interference.
(Reporting by Sharon Tam and Jessie Pang; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie)