Hong Kong pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Ivan Lam, and Agnes Chow pleaded guilty to the charge of “unlawful assembly” on Monday, in connection with their participation in a 2019 pro-democracy protest. Their sentencing will occur on December 2, and each of them face up to five years in prison. In response, PEN America’s Summer Lopez, senior director of Free Expression Programs, offered this statement:

“It has been obvious since the start that the charges against Wong, Lam, and Chow are a politically motivated attempt to silence the speech of some of Hong Kong’s leading pro-democracy activists. It is shocking and painful to know that all three are now facing the prospect of years behind bars, simply because the Hong Kong government has decided to treat protesters as synonymous with criminals. We urge the Hong Kong authorities to recognize that, by proceeding with these charges, they are irrevocably damaging the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly within Hong Kong, and we call upon them to drop these charges before it is too late.”

On September 23, Wong participated in a PEN America co-hosted event, “When They Call You a Terrorist,” in which Wong spoke with Black Lives Matter activist Patrisse Cullors and cultural critic Baratunde Thurston about what happens when protest movements are treated by authorities as threats. Video of the event can be found on PEN America’s YouTube channel.