Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement leader Joshua Wong sent back to jail

A senior judge said on Thursday student leader Joshua Wong must return to jail to serve a reduced sentence of two months for an earlier charge. (AFP)
Updated 16 May 2019
0

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement leader Joshua Wong sent back to jail

  • Joshua Wong was jailed for three months in January 2018 on a contempt charge but served only six days
  • A senior judge said on Thursday Wong must return to jail — albeit for a reduced sentence of two months

HONG KONG: Prominent Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong was sent back to prison Thursday after he lost an attempt to quash a jail sentence over his leadership of huge democracy protests five years ago.
Wong, 22, became one of the most recognizable faces of the “Umbrella Movement” in 2014 which paralyzed key intersections of the financial hub for more than two months.
Protesters were demanding a greater say in how the city is run, including the right for Hong Kongers to directly elect the city’s leader.
The movement — which took its name from the umbrellas protesters used to defend themselves against police — failed to win any concessions from the city’s pro-Beijing authorities, and its leaders faced a slew of prosecutions.
Wong, who was 17 when the protests began, was jailed for three months in January 2018 on a contempt charge after pleading guilty to obstructing the clearance of a major protest camp.
He served only six days of that sentence before being released on bail pending an appeal.
On Thursday, however, a senior judge said Wong must return to jail — albeit for a reduced sentence of two months.
Justice of Appeal Jeremy Poon said Wong’s age at the time of the offense was a mitigating factor, as well as his guilty plea and apology.
But he dismissed Wong’s argument that he had been excessively punished by authorities because of his prominent status as “entirely baseless and misconceived.”
Wong turned to supporters after the verdict and told them to “add oil” — a commonly used Cantonese phrase of encouragement.
He was then led away to a prison van.
Speaking to reporters before the verdict, Wong said he was facing the prospect of jail “with a calm mind,” noting that other leaders had received much longer sentences.
Last month two key leaders of the protests were jailed for 16 months.
“We will never forget the spirit of Umbrella Movement and we will continue to fight for free elections,” he said.
He also warned of controversial plans by Hong Kong’s government to approve extraditions to the Chinese mainland for the first time.
“Today the High Court, tomorrow the People’s Court,” he said, referring to the mainland’s judicial system.
Wong was also convicted in a second prosecution related to the storming of a government forecourt during the 2014 protests.
He spent some time behind bars for that case, but in the end the city’s top court ruled that community service was sufficient punishment.


Britain and EU spar over Brexit as clock ticks down

Updated 21 September 2019

Britain and EU spar over Brexit as clock ticks down

  • Britain says a deal is possible
  • Ireland says not close to a deal

LONDON/BRUSSELS : Britain said on Friday a Brexit deal with the European Union could be reached at a summit next month, but EU member Ireland said the sides were far from agreement and London had not yet made serious proposals.
Three years after Britons voted to leave the EU, hopes of a breakthrough over the terms of its departure have been stoked in recent days by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the shape of a deal is emerging and European Commission President Juncker saying agreement is possible.
But diplomats say the two sides are split over London’s desire to remove the Irish border “backstop” from the divorce deal struck by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, and then work out a replacement in coming years.
The backstop is an insurance policy to keep the 500-km (300-mile) border between Ireland, which will remain in the EU, and the British province of Northern Ireland open after Brexit.
“We both want to see a deal,” British Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said after talks in Brussels with EU negotiator Michel Barnier. “The meeting overran, which signals we were getting into the detail.”
“There is a still a lot of work to do but there is a common purpose to secure a deal,” Barclay said, adding that Juncker and Johnson also both wanted a deal.
Leaving the EU would be Britain’s biggest shift in trade and foreign policy for more than 40 years and deprive the 28-nation bloc of one of its biggest economies. The EU has set a deadline for a deal to be reached by Oct. 31.
British parliament has rejected the deal May agreed with the EU. Johnson has said he wants to secure an amended deal at an EU summit on Oct. 17-18 but that Britain will leave the bloc if that is not possible. He will meet European Council Donald Tusk at the United Nations in New York next week.
Ireland is crucial to any Brexit solution. Unless the Irish border backstop is removed or amended, Johnson will not be able to win parliamentary approval but Ireland and the EU are unwilling to sign a deal without a solution to the border.
The EU fears a hard border could cause unrest in Northern Ireland and undermine the fragile peace provided by a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of violence between Irish nationalists seeking a united Ireland, and the British security forces and pro-British “unionists.”
The Withdrawal Agreement that was agreed with the EU last November says the United Kingdom will remain in a customs union “unless and until” alternative arrangements are found to avoid the return of border controls in Ireland.
The British government, worried the backstop will trap it in the EU’s orbit for years to come, wants to remove it and find a solution before December 2020, when a planned transition period ends.
The British pound fell from a two-month high after the Financial Times reported Johnson had told colleagues he did not expect to reach a full “legally operable” deal next month.
One EU official said Britain’s proposals are not enough to replace the backstop.
“As it stands, it is unacceptable,” the official said. “If they don’t really change their approach, we are at an impasse.”
The European Commission said in a memo that Britain’s plans “fall short of satisfying all the objectives” of finding an alternative to the backstop, Sky News reported.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the mood music had improved and that both sides wanted a deal but that they were not close to an agreement.
“There is certainly a lot of commentary now and some of it is spin I think, in the context of where we are,” he told the BBC. “We need to be honest with people and say that we’re not close to that deal right now.”
“Everybody needs a dose of reality here, there is still quite a wide gap between what the British government have been talking about in terms of the solutions that they are proposing, and I think what Ireland and the EU will be able to support.”
Britain said on Thursday it had shared documents with Brussels setting out ideas for a Brexit deal, but an EU diplomat described them as a “smokescreen” that would not prevent a disorderly exit on the Oct. 31 departure date.
Coveney, Ireland’s second most powerful politician, said a no-deal could lead to civil unrest.
“Trade across 300 road crossings that has created a normality and a peace that is settled on the island of Ireland for the last 20 years, that now faces significant disruption,” he said. “That is what we’re fighting for here.