September 2, 2015 – Hong Kong teenage student leader Joshua Wong is set to face trial on charges relating to his role in storming government headquarters nearly a year ago in a protest that sparked monthslong pro-democracy street occupations.
Wong pleaded not guilty to charges of inciting and participating in an illegal assembly at a magistrate court on Wednesday.
Two other student leaders, Alex Chow and Nathan Law, also pleaded not guilty at the same hearing to similar charges.
After posting bail, Wong told reporters he didn’t regret entering a fenced-off courtyard outside government headquarters during an evening rally on Sept. 26, saying it was the “best decision” he’d ever made.
The 18-year-old leader of the Scholarism high school group helped spearhead last year’s protest movement against Beijing’s plan to restrict elections for top leader of the semiautonomous Chinese city.
Students and other activists occupied streets in busy neighbourhoods across the Asian financial hub for 79 days, but the protest movement fizzled out as authorities refused to budge.
Chow, former secretary general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, which also played a main role organizing the protests, is charged with participating in an illegal assembly. Law, the group’s current leader, is charged with inciting an illegal assembly.
During the protest, huge crowds jammed the streets outside the government building after police arrested the popular Wong and other key leaders, holding them for nearly two days. Police attempts to scatter the crowds by using tear gas backfired, enraging the protesters and kick-starting their rally, which some called the Umbrella Movement and others dubbed Occupy Central.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison, said Wong’s lawyer, Michael Vidler.
He said that because he’s under 21, Wong would more likely be required to perform community service or go to a youth correction centre.
The case was adjourned until Oct. 30.