Today, charged under that law and languishing in jail, the leading lights of Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam have been sentenced - receiving between seven and fourteen months jail each, well short of what was feared.
Joshua Wong, 24, one of Hong Kong's most prominent democracy activists, was jailed on Wednesday for 13-1/2 months for his role in an unlawful rally at anti-government protests a year ago, ramping up pressure on opposition figures in the Chinese-ruled city.
"I believe they will continue to be very important people to Hong Kong in the future".
Wong had pleaded guilty to organising and inciting an unlawful assembly near the city's police headquarters during the height of the sometimes violent demonstrations in June past year. They face up to three years in jail.
A handful of government supporters popped sparkling wine outside court Wednesday when news of the sentences emerged.
"I know the coming days will be tougher".
"Ahead of us is another challenging battleground. We're not joining the battle in prison along with many fearless protestors, less visible yet essential in the fight for democracy and freedom for HK".
"The defendants called on protesters to besiege the headquarters and chanted slogans that undermine the police force", Magistrate Wong Sze-lai said as she sentenced Wong to 13.5 months, Chow to 10 months and Lam to seven months in jail.
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Wong, who pleaded guilty to organizing and participating in the protest, received a sentence of slightly more than a year. Wong, Chow and Lam, 26, joined Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement when they were in their teens.
Earlier this summer, Beijing also imposed a broad security law which ramps up its direct control over the city and outlaws certain political views.
Chow, 23, burst into tears when the sentence was read out.
U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn accused China of cracking down on human rights and destroying "any semblance of autonomy in Hong Kong".
"Keep the faith, Joshua, you are truly an inspiration to freedom fighters everywhere", Blackburn said in a statement. "It comes from all directions and is going after all kinds of people", Isaac Cheng, a friend of Wong's and former vice chairman of their now-defunct political party Demosisto, told AFP. And they played prominent roles two years later in the "Umbrella Movement" - a 79-day peaceful occupation by a largely student-led campaign calling for universal suffrage.
"This is a big loss to the civil society". He was previously detained for purchasing laser pointers, which were widely used against officers in last year's street protests.
Between June 2019 and October this year, over 10,000 people have been arrested on protest-related charges.
The expulsion of opposition lawmakers prompted democrats to resign en masse, leaving the legislature devoid of any opposition democrats for the first time since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule.