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Hong Kong student leader Wong 'expects jail'

AFP  |  Hong Kong 

Hong Kong student leader Joshua Wong said today he is preparing for a possible prison sentence next year, as another trial date was set in a string of cases he faces relating to pro-democracy protests.

Wong 19, was the teenage face of the Umbrella Movement, which brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for more than two months last year calling for fully free leadership elections, and has been charged with multiple offences.

He was in court today over an anti-China protest in the build-up to the street rallies and will stand trial in May.

"I already expect the outcome that I may go to jail," Wong told AFP today.

"I'm ready to bear the responsibility for organising the campaign and the movement," he said.

The small protest in June 2014 saw dozens gather outside Beijing's representative office in the city.

Wong, student leader Nathan Law, and activists Raphael Wong and Albert Chan have been charged with obstructing police, which carries a possible two-year jail term. The four have pleaded not guilty.

Separately, Wong faces trial in February over a demonstration that saw students climb into the Hong Kong government complex on September 26, 2014, triggering wider rallies that exploded two days later when police fired tear gas to disperse crowds.

Wong was charged with inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly and taking part in an unlawful assembly, which carry a jail term of up to five years.

"I hope to show that activists in Hong Kong still persist to fight for universal suffrage and democracy even though we are facing political prosecution," Wong said.

But "not going to jail may be better", he added, saying that it would interfere with his university studies.

Sending Wong to prison could trigger a backlash for the authorities, said political analyst Willy Lam.

Beijing wants to see him punished harshly "to serve him up as an example of rebelliousness against Beijing and Chinese values," said Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

"(But) If he were jailed, this would have a very negative impact for the current administration because many young people consider Joshua Wong as their inspiration for getting involved in politics."

Wong also faces another charge relating to a protest in Mong Kok, where the most violent clashes happened during the pro-democracy rallies.

Hong Kong is semi-autonomous after being returned to China by Britain in 1997, with much greater freedoms than seen on the mainland.

But there are fears those freedoms are being eroded by increasing interference from Beijing.

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First Published: Tue, December 22 2015. 18:58 IST