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The Hong Kong democracy activist is returning to prison for 'defying a court order.'
Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong was sentenced Wednesday to three months in prison for his role in massive protests in 2014, dealing another blow to the pro-democratic youth movement in this semi-autonomous region of China.
Wong, 21, pleaded guilty to the charge of defying a court order to leave a demonstration site at the end of the mass democracy protests known as the Umbrella Movement, a 79-day occupation of the city demanding freer elections and greater political autonomy.
“They can lock up our bodies, but they cannot lock up our minds,” Wong told reporters outside the High Court before the ruling was handed down.
Wong and another activist, Raphael Wong Ho-ming, were remanded in custody while 14 other defendants were dealt suspended sentences, according to the South China Morning Post.
“The sentences will have a chilling effect particularly on young people who want to play a more active role in ushering in real democracy in Hong Kong,” says Willie Lam, Adjunct Professor of China Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. But he added that the “relatively tough sentences” could “serve to radicalize young people toward taking more extreme positions.”
Benedict Rogers, founder and chair of the U.K.-based rights group Hong Kong Watch, tells TIME he was “surprised and shocked” by the ruling, but that it will be unlikely to derail Wong and his peers in their pursuit of universal suffrage and democratic norms in Hong Kong.
“They have a courage and integrity that is truly inspiring,” Rogers says. “However, it may well deter others from participating,” he adds, by reinforcing the message that “the pro-democracy camp is not welcome.”
Along with fellow protest leaders Nathan Law and Alex Chow, Wong was sentenced to several months in prison in August, in a revised ruling viewed by many as politically motivated. He was released on bail in October after serving more than two months in prison.
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TNL Editor: Morley J Weston