China Levels Charges Against Hong Kong Protesters in Attempt to Chill Free Expression
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW YORK—Charges of obstructing the police leveled yesterday against Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters Joshua Wong and Nathan Law will further chill expression on the island, PEN American Center said today. The charges demonstrate an accelerating trend by the Chinese government of using politically motivated charges against peaceful activists in an attempt to suppress all forms of dissent.
The charges filed yesterday against Joshua Wong, 18, and Nathan Law, 22, stem from the pro-democracy protests that took place in Hong Kong over a year ago. During the demonstrations, Wong and Law set fire to cardboard props designed to look like a controversial mainland Chinese government white paper that asserted Beijing’s authority over Hong Kong. Wong is expected to be further charged with criminal contempt of court for failing to comply with an October 2014 order to vacate the streets of the Mong Kok commercial district, which was brought to a standstill during two months of sustained pro-democracy protests and sit-ins last summer.
“Joshua Wong and Nathan Law inspired the world with their dauntlessness and the cogency of their case on behalf of genuine democracy in Hong Kong,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center. “Young people with that kind of vision and capability represent the brightest hope for Hong Kong’s future. They deserve high praise, not prosecution.”
The charges filed against the two well-known leaders in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement send a message of intimidation to other would-be demonstrators that they should stay silent or risk prosecution. Tactics like this are part of a worrying trend of threats to free expression in Hong Kong documented in PEN’s January 2015 report Threatened Harbor: Encroachments on Press Freedom in Hong Kong.
Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,000 U.S. writers working to bring down barriers to free expression worldwide. www.pen.org