HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Hong Kong court sentenced a 66-year-old activist known as “Grandma Wong” to eight months’ imprisonment on Wednesday, in the second jailing of a veteran Hong Kong democracy campaigner in as many days.
Alexandra Wong Fung-yiu had been charged with two counts of unlawful assembly from 2019, when millions had taken part in months of protracted pro-democracy protests against a perceived tightening of Chinese Communist Party control over the city.
Wong, who had initially pleaded not guilty before later changing her plea, was jailed for 32 weeks by magistrate Ada Yim in Eastern Magistrates’ Court.
Wong, who had regularly campaigned for full democracy and an end to China’s authoritarian grip over the former British colony, could often be seen waving the Union Jack flag at demonstrations.
The conviction is the latest against Hong Kong’s dwindling band of democratic campaigners – many of whom have been jailed or forced into exile since a national security law came into effect in 2020, punishing crimes like subversion with possible life imprisonment.
The security crackdown on dissent and free speech has been multi-pronged with civil society groups and media outlets shuttered; and prominent opposition figures arrested and denied bail, drawing international condemnation including from the city’s top U.S. diplomat this week.
On Tuesday, authorities also jailed Koo Sze-yiu, 75, another veteran activist for nine months, for “attempting” an act with seditious intent.
Koo, who suffers from late-stage cancer, was jailed for planning a protest outside China’s main representative office in Hong Kong, during Beijing’s Winter Olympics in February. He was arrested before he could carry out the alleged plan.
Before sentencing Koo had shouted in court that he was willing to be a “martyr” in defending fundamental rights.
The jailings come as a panel of experts on the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee scrutinise the city government’s rights record. The four-yearly review is the first by the independent U.N. expert body since the city’s national security law came into effect.
“The public record indicates that a growing number of persons have been arrested, charged and convicted for sedition relating to innocuous acts such as publishing children’s books,” said Christopher Arif Bulkan, one of the rights experts, during one hearing earlier this month.
A panel of Hong Kong government officials, however, repeatedly said its legal system remains independent and free from political interference.
(Reporting by James Pomfret and Hong Kong Bureau; Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf in Geneva; Editing by Angus MacSwan)