Last week three leading democracy activists in Hong Kong were sentenced for their role in a protest that took place in 2019. Joshua Wong was given 13 1/2 months, Agnes Chow was sentenced to 10 months and Ivan Lam was given 7 months.

It was the first time Chow has been jailed, and she sobbed as the sentence was read out. Both Lam and Wong have been to prison before, and dragged before court even more often.

A day later, another iconic opposition figure, Jimmy Lai — the septuagenarian founder of pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily — was denied bail after an initial hearing into a fraud case. He will remain behind bars until the next trial date in April.

In denying bail, the judge deemed the multimillionaire to be a flight risk, though Lai previously vowed to stay in the city and fight, despite facing growing pressure related to his activism.

Tuesday of this week police arrested 8 more activists including former pro-democracy lawmakers:

Former pro-democracy lawmakers Wu Chi-wai, Eddie Chu and Leung Kwok Hung were arrested at their homes on charges related to organizing and participating in the protest, according to Facebook posts on their respective pages.

Hong Kong police said in a statement that eight men aged between 24 and 64 had been arrested for inciting, organizing and taking part in an unauthorized assembly.

China’s crackdown on freedoms put democracy supporters in a very difficult position. As the Washington Post reports today, they can either wait around to be arrested and sent to jail or they can flee the country.

Facing charges related to his activism, Ted Hui, a former Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker, flew to Denmark last week ostensibly to discuss climate and sustainability issues — topics innocuous enough for a court to release his passport and allow his departure.

The climate talks were a ruse. Last Thursday, three days after landing in Copenhagen, Hui announced he would not return and would instead go into exile…

“It is a grave situation, with what seems to be only two ways out: Either leave Hong Kong or stay here and wait to be arrested,” said Sam Yip, vice convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, a group that has organized massive pro-democracy marches. Its convener, Figo Chan, was among eight people arrested Tuesday who police said organized an unlawful assembly and incited others to protest on July 1 this year.

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments “are on turbo drive, trying to root out all the activists and politicians” associated with anti-government protests, said Ho-fung Hung, an expert on Hong Kong politics at Johns Hopkins University. “They are trying to instill as much fear and desperation in activists as they can.”

After Hui fled the country, authorities in Hong Kong police his bank account saying he was under a national security investigation. Hui called it an act of “political revenge.”

With the security law now in place, defenders of free speech and democracy are in retreat. The sentences handed out to Agnes Chow, Ivan Lam and Joshua Wong are pretty light compared to what could happen. So-called separatism, meaning any advocacy for Hong Kong’s independence from China, could potentially result in a life sentence.

For China, every pro-democracy activist who winds up in jail or leaves the country is a win. Either way, they have been taken off the board and the message has been sent that anyone who stands up to the communists has to fear for their freedom. Watching China silence its young critics is like witnessing a prelude to Orwell’s 1984 in real time.

Here’s a Reuters clip on Agnes Chow who some in Japan have dubbed the “goddess of democracy.”