Three organizers jailed for Hong Kong vigil for Tiananmen Square victims

Three former organizers of Hong Kong’s annual vigil in memory of the victims of China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests have been jailed.

Chow Hang-tung, Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong each received four and a half months in prison for failing to provide authorities with information about the group in accordance with a national security law.

The three were arrested in 2021 during the crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement following mass protests more than three years ago. They were leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Democratic Patriotic Movements and were found guilty last week.

The alliance was best known for holding candlelight vigils in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the Chinese military’s crushing of the pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but voted to disband in 2021 under the shadow of the security law. national imposed by Beijing.

Hong Kong national security arrest
Pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan was among the three jailed (Vincent Yu/AP)

Supporters say its closure has shown that the freedoms and autonomy promised when Hong Kong returned to China from the UK in 1997 are dwindling. of being a foreign agent.

But the group refused to cooperate, arguing that the police had no right to ask for his information because he was not a foreign agent and the authorities did not provide sufficient justification.

Under the security law implementation rules, the police chief can request a variety of information from a foreign agent.

Failure to comply with the request could result in six months in jail and a HK$100,000 (£9,800) fine if convicted.

In his mitigation, Chow said that the alliance was not a foreign agent and nothing had emerged to prove otherwise, so sentencing them was about punishing people for standing up for the truth.

He said that national security is being used as a pretext to wage war against civil society.

“Sir, if necessary, condemn us for our insubordination, but when the exercise of power is based on lies, being insubordinate is the only way to be human,” he said.

Handing down the sentences, Chief Justice Peter Law said the case is the first of its kind under the new law and the sentence should send a clear message to society that the law does not condone any violation.

Law, who was approved by the city leader to oversee the case, said he saw no justification for reducing the sentence from four and a half months.

In previous legal proceedings, the court ordered the partial redaction of certain information after prosecutors argued that full disclosure of the information would jeopardize an ongoing investigation into national security cases.

Therefore, some crucial details were redacted, including the names of the groups that allegedly had ties to the alliance.

Defense attorney Philip Dykes said he could not say “how strong or weak” the alleged links were and that made mitigation difficult.

The annual vigil organized by the alliance was the only large-scale public commemoration of the June 4 crackdown on Chinese soil and was attended by massive crowds until authorities banned it in 2020, citing anti-pandemic measures.

Chow, along with two other former leaders of the alliance, Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho, were charged with inciting subversion of state power under the 2021 security law. The alliance itself was charged with subversion.

The national security law criminalizes secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces to intervene in the affairs of the city, as well as terrorism. Many pro-democracy activists were silenced or jailed after it was enacted in 2020.

Hong Kong activist sentence
Elizabeth Tang speaks to the press as she leaves a police station in Hong Kong (Louise Delmotte/AP)

In another case, Elizabeth Tang, who was arrested for endangering national security earlier this week, was released on bail on Saturday. Tang is a veteran union activist and also Lee’s wife.

In a statement Thursday that did not provide a name, police said they had arrested a 65-year-old woman on Hong Kong Island on suspicion of colluding with a foreign country or outside elements to endanger national security.

“I feel clueless because my work is always about labor rights and union organizing. So I don’t understand why they accused me of breaking the law and endangering national security,” she told reporters on Saturday after being released.


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