Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong sentenced to more jail time

Participants at vigil commemorating 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre
Democracy activist Joshua Wong, center, joins others at a vigil in Hong Kong last year commemorating the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.
(Kin Cheung / Associated Press)

As Hong Kong authorities exert more control over dissent in the city, prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was sentenced to more jail time Thursday for participating in an unauthorized vigil last year to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

For years, Hong Kong was the only place in China where people were allowed to mark the anniversary of Beijing’s bloody crushing of the Chinese democracy movement.

Despite the commemoration being banned for the first time last year, thousands of protesters defied authorities and proceeded to Victoria Park to light candles and sing songs. Police at the vigil warned the protesters they might be breaking the law but made no arrests on the day itself.


Wong and three district councilors pleaded guilty to knowingly taking part in an unauthorized assembly, and could have faced a maximum of five years in prison. Twenty other people face charges over the Tiananmen vigil but have not entered pleas.

Wong, who rose to prominence as a student activist and was the face of the city’s 2014 pro-democracy protests, is already in jail after being convicted of illegal assembly in other protests, and was sentenced to an additional 10 months. Councilors Lester Shum, Jannelle Leung and Tiffany Yuen received sentences that range from four to six months for participating in the Tiananmen vigil.

Wong was also among 47 activists charged under the city’s sweeping national security law for taking part in unofficial primary elections held last year by the pro-democracy camp to determine candidates for Hong Kong’s legislative elections, which were later postponed.

When I was a young man in the 1970s, I joined hundreds of thousands of desperate Chinese to swim miles across the sea to Hong Kong, our beacon of freedom.

March 28, 2021

Authorities have launched an intense crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong following months of anti-government protests in 2019. In addition to the new national security law, the criteria for elections have been changed, and many outspoken democracy advocates have been jailed.

“We are very disappointed in how our courts have been failing to safeguard our rights to peaceful assembly, safeguard our rights to freedom of expression,” said Chow Hang-tung, vice chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organizes the annual Tiananmen vigil.


Chow urged Hong Kongers and others around the world to continue remembering the Tiananmen crackdown by lighting a candle June 4, wherever they are.

On the night of June 3-4, 1989, Chinese military tanks and troops moved into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to break up weeks of student-led protests that had spread to other cities and were seen as a threat to Communist Party rule. Hundreds and possibly thousands of people were killed.