Hong Kong democracy activist is jailed in second Tiananmen vigil case

HONG KONG – A Hong Kong court on Tuesday sentenced a 36-year-old lawyer to 15 months in prison for holding an unauthorized meeting to commemorate the victims of China’s crackdown on democracy protesters in 1989 on Tiananmen Square in and around Beijing had instigated.

Chow Hang-tung, an activist from the now-closed Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, was arrested the day before June 4, the anniversary of last year’s raid.

Police have banned the annual vigil in Tiananmen Square in Hong Kong for the past two years, citing coronavirus restrictions.

But after the mass protests for democracy on Chinese territory in 2019, many activists saw the bans as an attempt to stop protests against Beijing. The authorities denied that this was the reason.

Despite the ban, thousands of candles were lit across the city in 2020, and smaller crowds did the same in 2021.

Chow’s charges relate to social media posts titled “Lighting a Candle Is Not a Crime: Stand Firm” and her newspaper article Ming Pao, titled “Candlelight carries the weight of conscience and Hong Kong people insist on the truth accept.”

Judge Amy Chan, of West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court, said she found the papers and articles were designed to “encourage, persuade, propose, and put pressure on the public” and “get others to agree.” knowingly in an unauthorized assembly. “

Chan added that the gathering created “a public health risk.”

Chow, who represented herself, pleaded not guilty and said she wanted to “encourage others not to forget June 4th” in order not to encourage a meeting. Chan said she found the argument “just amazing”. Adding Chow’s academic qualifications would have enabled her to write more clearly.

Hong Kong democracy activist is jailed in second Tiananmen vigil case 1

“It is foreseeable that the public space to discuss June 4th will completely disappear,” said one Chow tearfully to the court after the verdict. “Tyranny is greedy, red lines will continue to expand.”

Last month eight pro-democracy activists were sentenced to up to 14 months in prison for their role in the 2020 vigil. Among them, Chow received a 12-month sentence.

Five months of the jail sentence announced on Tuesday will be imposed at the same time, meaning Chow will only serve 10 months on top of her previous sentence.

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Sixteen other activists are already serving sentences of 4 to 10 months in connection with the 2020 vigil. Two democracy activists facing similar charges, Nathan Law and Sunny Cheung, had fled Hong Kong before being charged.

Chow is also charged with inciting subversion under a comprehensive Beijing national security law in 2020. The Alliance disbanded amid the investigation, with police accusing it of being an “agent of foreign forces,” which the group had denied.

The former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of far-reaching freedoms, traditionally holds the largest vigil in the world on June 4th.

But commemorations have become more and more difficult. Last month, leading international universities in the global financial center removed Tiananmen monuments, including the “Pillar of Shame” at the University of Hong Kong and the “Goddess of Democracy” at the University of China.

A museum on June 4 was searched and closed by police during the investigation into the Alliance, and its online version is inaccessible in Hong Kong.

China never provided a full report on the 1989 raid. The death toll reported days later by officials was around 300, most of them soldiers, but human rights groups and witnesses say thousands may have been killed.

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