A Hong Kong Court has sentenced Alexandra Wong, a 66-year-old pro-democracy protester known locally as "Grandma Wong," to eight months in prison for taking part in illegal gatherings in 2019.

Wong had pleaded guilty to the charges while using her July 13 trial as an opportunity to call the Hong Kong government an "authoritarian regime." Koo Sze-Yiu, a 75-year-old pro-democracy activist with terminal cancer, had received a nine-month jail sentence the day before Wong's sentencing, the BBC said. Prosecutors had accused Wong of waving the flag of Great Britain, the territory's former colonial ruler, and shouting "offensive" remarks during two flash mobs on August 11, 2019, the BBC added.

'Always peaceful, positive and friendly'

American lawyer Samuel Bickett, who was expelled from Hong Kong earlier this year, reacted to Wong's sentencing on Twitter. "Grandma Wong was a constant presence at the Hong Kong protests — always peaceful, positive and friendly. Along with Koo Sze Yiu, she’s now the second widely respected senior sentenced to prison in as many days," he said.

Many participants in the city's 2019 pro-democracy demonstrations had been later charged with attending unauthorized public gatherings, AFP noted.

The news agency said the 2020 National Security Law imposed by mainland China had "effectively now criminalized dissent in Hong Kong."

Wong spoke of forced confessions

In the courtroom, Wong said she had been detained and questioned by law enforcement officers in China for 45 days, according to The Guardian. The paper said Wong had recalled being forced by the Chinese to give confessions in writing and on camera.

Earlier this year, Wong had served a one-month jail sentence for shoving a court guard and a four-day sentence for not showing her identification card during a protest, The Guardian said.

Hong Kong’s much-lauded justice system is lost'

Bickett testified to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China the day before Wong was sentenced.

The commission was holding a hearing on "The Dismantling of Hong Kong’s Civil Society." The lawyer said Hong Kong's once independent judicial system had been "corrupted by Beijing’s authoritarian security apparatus."

In his written testimony, Bickett told the commission about what he had experienced in 2019 after coming to the aid of a teenager being beaten by men later identified as plainclothes police officers. He recalled first seeing the teenager being hit and choked.

In response to questions from bystanders, the men had denied being police officers, Bickett testified.

He recalled then overpowering and detaining one of the men who had started beating a British man. Bickett said uniformed police officers had eventually arrived to take him into custody.

He said: "I spent two days in police custody, where I was tortured using a common method in Hong Kong. The police put me in a room with the temperature set at around 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) for hours at a time."

Bickett continued: "Periodically, an officer would pull me out of the room shivering and turning blue, warm me up, and interrogate me. Each time, I would refuse to answer and they would put me back in the freezing room."

Bickett said he had eventually been sentenced to four and a half months in jail. He noted that he had been deported immediately after serving his sentence. "Those holding out hope that courageous officials in the justice system will step up to save Hong Kong’s rule of law must accept the reality: Hong Kong’s much-lauded justice system is lost," Bickett told the commission.

The testimony of Bickett and others can be found at the website of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. A video of the hearing has also been posted on YouTube.