In sweltering heat, protesters wear brown prison uniforms in homage to jailed Alex Chow, Nathan Law and Joshua Wong
Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Hong Kong – some clad in prison uniforms – to demand the release of three of the former British colony’s best-known pro-democracy leaders.
Alex Chow, Nathan Law and Joshua Wong – key leaders of 2014’s umbrella movement protests – were jailed for between six and eight months on Thursday for their involvement in an “unlawful assembly” that helped launch those historic demonstrations.
Supporters have denounced the court’s ruling as a politically motivated attack on the semi-autonomous city’s democracy movement while Hong Kong’s last governor, Chris Patten, called it a deplorable decision that would deepen fears about Beijing’s erosion of the territory’s freedoms.
Police said about 22,000 demonstrators joined the march across Hong Kong island – from Wan Chai to the court of final appeal in its financial centre – on Sunday afternoon to voice their anger, local broadcaster RTHK reported.
Despite sweltering heat, some protesters wore brown prison uniforms in homage to the trio of jailed campaigners and 13 other activists who were also imprisoned earlier in the week.
Others came carrying banners that read: “Free all political prisoners”, “One prisoner of conscience is one too many” and “It’s not a crime to fight against totalitarianism”.
“In the past when we chanted ‘release political prisoners,’ we were referring to [those in mainland China] … but now it’s Hong Kong,” Derek Lam, a local pro-democracy activist, told the protest.
Ray Chan, another pro-democracy legislator, said: “We want to let those who have been jailed and those who are facing political prosecution know that they are not alone. What they have done was righteous and Hong Kongers do not believe they deserved what they got.
“Some have said the democracy movement has stalled. Today we are sending a strong message to those in power that the movement never dies. I came out today to tell those in power that we are united and we are not afraid.”
A photograph of the protest was posted on Wong’s Twitter account:
Hong Kong’s government has scotched claims politics was behind the decision to jail the trio. Matthew Cheung, the city’s number-two official, blamed those allegations on “bias in the views of foreign media”.
However, democracy campaigners are convinced the activists were imprisoned to stop them running for office during the next five years. Mo claimed the decision to jail Chow, Law and Wong was part of “Beijing’s grand plan” to cripple the pro-democracy camp and strip Hong Kong of its freedoms. But she insisted the plan would fail because of the passion of the city’s increasingly politicised youth. “We will have many more Joshua Wongs coming along,” she said.
In a letter to the Financial Times (paywall), Lord Patten said locking the trio up would fail to curtail Hong Kong’s ambitions for greater democracy. “It will surely have the opposite effect,” he wrote. “The names of Joshua Wong, Alex Chow and Nathan Law will be remembered long after the names of those who have persecuted them have been forgotten and swept into the ashcan of history.”
Speaking to RTHK, Eddie Chu, another pro-democracy legislator, said it was time for Hong Kong’s activists to abandon their computer screens and “pour [on to] the street” in protest.
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