Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam sentenced to jail after pleading guilty to charges of organising and inciting an unauthorised assembly. Wong rose to international prominence as a leader of 2014 student-led Umbrella Movement protests.

Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, right, and Ivan Lam, left, are escorted by Correctional Services officers to get on a prison van before appearing in a court in Hong Kong, December 2, 2020.
Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, right, and Ivan Lam, left, are escorted by Correctional Services officers to get on a prison van before appearing in a court in Hong Kong, December 2, 2020. (AP)

Leading Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong has been jailed alongside two other young activists for leading an illegal rally outside the city's police headquarters during last year's huge democracy protests.

Wong was sentenced to 13.5 months in jail, while his colleagues Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam got 10 months and seven months, an AFP reporter inside the court said on Wednesday.

Hong Kong was convulsed by seven straight months of huge and often violent rallies in which millions took to the streets.

Beijing has refused demands for universal suffrage and authorities have pursued democracy supporters with criminal cases and a tough new security law.

The tactics have stifled the movement and restored a semblance of calm. But the finance hub remains deeply polarised with many still seething against Beijing's growing hold on the semi-autonomous city.

Wong, 24, was prosecuted alongside fellow activists Lam and Chow over a protest which took place last summer outside the police headquarters.

READ MORE: Joshua Wong pleads guilty at Hong Kong protest trial

Teen origins 

Despite his youth, Wong has already spent time in prison for leading democracy protests and has said he is prepared for more time behind bars.

"All these pains and sufferings would only strengthen our courage and conviction for democracy and justice," read a post on his verified Twitter account on Monday alongside a letter from Wong saying he was being held in solitary confinement ahead of sentencing.

"Cages cannot lock up souls."

Wong, Chow and Lam, 26, joined Hong Kong's anti-Beijing movement when they were in their teens.

All three organised successful rallies in 2012 against plans to make Hong Kong's education system more "patriotic".

And they played prominent roles two years later in the "Umbrella Movement" – a 79-day peaceful occupation by a largely student-led campaign calling for universal suffrage.

Leading figures from those protests, including Wong, were jailed and the democracy movement struggled in the years after.

But it exploded onto the streets once more in June 2019, sparked by plans to allow extraditions to mainland China and its opaque legal system.

Millions took to the streets over the next seven months in a deliberately leaderless campaign mostly organised via social media calling for greater democracy and police accountability.

Riot police unleashed thousands of rounds of tear gas and rubber bullets and were frequently filmed using batons to beat arrested demonstrators.

Small groups of hardline activists resorted to rocks, petrol bombs and widespread vandalism.

READ MORE: Hong Kong police arrest three ex-lawmakers over May, June protests

Security law 

Figures like Wong and Chow joined some of the protests and also used their celebrity status over the years to lobby for international sanctions, a move that infuriated Beijing with state media casting them as traitors.

Earlier this summer, Beijing imposed a broad security law which ramps up its direct control over the city and outlaws certain political views.

More than 10,000 people have been arrested over the last 18 months and most of Hong Kong's leading activists and opposition figures face prosecution.

"The suppression is not only targeting prominent figures. It comes from all directions and is going after all kinds of people," Isaac Cheng, a friend of Wong's and former vice chairman of their now-defunct political party Demosisto, told AFP.

Chow is being investigated under the security law for allegedly "conspiring with foreign forces" by pushing for sanctions.

Wong is among another group of activists being prosecuted for a vigil marking the anniversary of Beijing's 1989 Tiananmen crackdown earlier this year.

Beijing says security has been restored.

But Cheng described a sense of despondency among many younger Hong Kongers.

"We thought this place belongs to us but it now turns out to be a crime if a student thinks differently from the government," he said.

READ MORE: How the world reacted to China’s national security law for Hong Kong

Source: AFP