ucanews.com reporter, Hong KongUpdated: January 23, 2018 05:48 AM GMT
Father Franco Mella outside the detention center n Lai Chi Koka to express his support for jailed activists, Joshua Wong and Raphael Wong. (ucanews.com photo)
An Italian-born priest has been conducting a sit-in protest outside a Hong Kong detention center to oppose the jailing of young political activists over their role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement.
Father Franco Mella of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions initially joined some 40 pro-democracy supporters outside the detention center in Lai Chi Koka to protest the jailing of Joshua Wong Chi-fung, 21, and Raphael Wong Ho-ming, 29, on Jan. 17.
Now the 69-year-old priest aims to continue the protests outside the detention center and is calling for support.
Joshua Wong, Raphael Wong and 14 others were charged with violating an injunction order and refusing to leave the Mongkok area during pro-democracy protests which at its peak saw more than 150,000 people taking to the streets.
The pair had pleaded guilty to contempt of court charges and were sentenced by the High Court on Jan. 17.
Joshua Wong was sentenced to jail for three months while Raphael Wong was for four and a half months. Both were detained immediately.
Father Mella told ucanews.com the government has suppressed political opposition via the courts.
"On that day in Mongkok, thousands of people there refused to leave, they all violated the injunction order, but why only convict those young leaders?" said Father Mella.
"This is a political prosecution and now people are angry," he said.
Father Mella said that "the colonial government also had many unjust policies but Hong Kong people would unite for rights and interests of the underprivileged. Now, the SAR [Special Administrative Region] government is splitting society."
A day after the jailing, Father Mella brought two Italian friends, now living in Hong Kong, to join what he says is an ongoing sit-in protest.
He said he hopes other people will join him in the protest and urged Hong Kong people to show their support.
"Democracy and freedom are sacred goals, so we should support all our brothers and sisters who fight for them," the priest said.
Born in Milan, Father Mella arrived in Hong Kong in 1970s and then spent some 20 years in China which he is now banned from visiting by the Chinese government. He has devoted his life to fighting for the rights of the disadvantaged in both Hong Kong and China.