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HK activist Joshua Wong requests leniency in major trial

July 5, 2024

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong has requested a lighter sentence after pleading guilty in a conspiracy trial. He could face possible life in jail under the national security law imposed by Beijing.

Joshua Wong
Young pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong could face life in prisonImage: Newscom/EyePress/IMAGO

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong appeared in court on Friday in what is the largest trial of  democracy movement activists in the territory's history, with his lawyer asking for leniency after his client's guilty plea. 

Wong, 27, was one of dozens of activists arrested in 2021 for participating in an unofficial poll to select candidates for a 2020 legislative council election.

The activists were accused of attempting to paralyze Hong Kong's government and topple the city's leader by aiming to win a legislative majority and using it to block city budgets.

The charges were made under a Beijing-imposed national security law introduced in Hong Kong in 2020 in the wake of major protests.

Plea for leniency

Wong's lawyer, Marco Li, told the court that while his client should be seen as an active participant in what prosecutors have called a subversion, he had no involvement in organizing or assisting in the poll.

"He very much hopes that after all these offenses, he could part with his past history and be able to reform himself after this particular offense," Li added.

Li urged that Wong's sentence be reduced by a third.

"Active participants" in the alleged conspiracy could receive sentences ranging from three years to 10, while those deemed to be "principal offenders" could face a life behind bars.  

Those who pleaded guilty have a better chance of receiving shorter sentences.

Wong has already served prison sentences for calling for protests in 2019.

Police standing outside a court in Hong Kong
Wong and five others face sentencing at the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court in Hong KongImage: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

Who is Joshua Wong?

Wong first became widely known in Hong Kong as a teenager in 2012 when he led protests against national education being introduced in the city's school.

In 2014, he rose to fame as one of the student leaders in the city's Occupy Movement, during which demonstrators occupied streets for 79 days while calling for direct elections for Hong Kong's leader.

However, Wong's efforts to get in overseas support for protests drew the ire of Beijing, which called him an advocate of Hong Kong independence who had "begged for interference" from foreign forces.

The political party he co-founded, Demosisto, was disbanded after the security law was enacted on June 30, 2020.

Critics call security law 'undemocratic'

Critics say the case has illustrated how the security law is being used to suppress pro-democracy activists in the city.  

However, both the Hong Kong and Beijing governments maintain that the Beijing-led national security law restored stability following the 2019 protests.

Wong is known in the West for the 2017 Netflix documentary "Joshua: Teenager vs Superpower," which looked at his activism in the former British colony.

sp/tj (Reuters, AP)