Ac­tivist Wong seized in new crack­down

The Timaru Herald - - World -

Joshua Wong, the prom­i­nent Hong Kong ac­tivist, was ar­rested on Thurs­day, lo­cal time, for ‘‘un­law­ful assem­bly’’ re­lated to a protest and for al­legedly vi­o­lat­ing a mask ban in 2019, as the au­thor­i­ties crack down on the city’s pro-democ­racy move­ment.

Wong has since been re­leased, with a trial date set for Septem­ber 30.

Ac­cord­ing to Wong’s Twit­ter ac­count, he faces the max­i­mum penalty for both charges – five years in prison for un­law­ful assem­bly and one year for wear­ing a mask. ‘‘Today’s ar­rest is a no­to­ri­ous abuse to the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem by plac­ing charges ruled un­con­sti­tu­tional ear­lier. How­ever, I choose not to sur­ren­der,’’ he tweeted.

Sup­port­ers of Wong, 23,broke the news via his Twit­ter ac­count that he was be­ing held for vi­o­lat­ing the ‘‘dra­co­nian an­ti­mask law’’, which was in­tro­duced last Oc­to­ber af­ter Car­rie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, in­voked a colo­nial-era emer­gency law. ‘‘The ar­rest is re­lated to par­tic­i­pat­ing in an unau­tho­rised assem­bly on Oc­to­ber 5 last year. He is told to have vi­o­lated the dra­co­nian anti-mask law as well,’’ Wong’s of­fi­cial Twit­ter ac­count said.

The protest in ques­tion took place at the height of the prodemoc­racy un­rest which roiled the city last year.

The mask ban has since been ruled un­con­sti­tu­tional, and the govern­ment de­clared in July that face masks would be made com­pul­sory in public as the densely pop­u­lated global fi­nan­cial hub grap­pled with the Covid-19 pan­demic.

Speak­ing to re­porters af­ter his re­lease from cus­tody, Wong said this was the third time the au­thor­i­ties had started a case against him over his prodemoc­racy ac­tiv­i­ties since his re­lease from a one-month jail stint last June for ob­struct­ing the clear­ance of a 2014 mass protest.

He said he was be­ing tar­geted by Bei­jing’s cam­paign to cre­ate a ‘‘chill­ing ef­fect’’ on ac­tivists call­ing for demo­cratic gover­nance and greater civil rights in the for­mer Bri­tish colony.

‘‘[The au­thor­i­ties) can pros­e­cute us, they can ar­rest us, they can lock us up in prison, but they can’t cen­sor our com­mit­ment to con­tinue to fight for free­dom,’’ he said. Wong told The Daily Tele­graph it was ‘‘not a co­in­ci­dence’’

that the au­thor­i­ties had picked Septem­ber 30 for his trial date – one day be­fore China’s Na­tional Day, when a fur­ther protest is planned.

‘‘Dur­ing the out­break of Covid-19, to ar­rest some­body be­cause of wear­ing a mask last year is re­ally ironic,’’ he said.

Johnny Pat­ter­son, direc­tor of

Lon­don-based ad­vo­cacy group Hong Kong Watch said Wong’s ar­rest was the ‘‘lat­est ex­am­ple of fla­grant po­lit­i­cal pros­e­cu­tion’’ in the Chi­nese-con­trolled city.

‘‘Wong’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in peace­ful demon­stra­tions is no crime,’’ he said.

Wong’s lat­est ar­rest adds to sev­eral un­law­ful assem­bly

charges or sus­pected of­fences he and other ac­tivists are fac­ing over last year’s anti-govern­ment protests, which prompted Bei­jing to im­pose a sweep­ing na­tional se­cu­rity law on June 30.

The new law pun­ishes any­thing China con­sid­ers as sub­ver­sion, se­ces­sion, ter­ror­ism and col­lu­sion with for­eign forces, with up to life in prison.

Its in­tro­duc­tion, which by­passed scru­tiny by the lo­cal leg­is­la­ture, cre­ated an in­ter­na­tional out­cry for bull­doz­ing a bind­ing deal be­tween the UK and Bei­jing when Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 that guar­an­teed the city’s way of life un­til 2047. – Tele­graph Group

AP

Hong Kong pro-democ­racy ac­tivist Joshua Wong dis­plays a bail pa­per out­side Cen­tral Po­lice Sta­tion in Hong Kong.

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