Hong Kong activists behind Tiananmen vigil to months in prison
Three former organizers of the annual Hong Kong vigil to commemorate the victims of China’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 1989 were jailed for four and a half months on Saturday for failing to provide information about the group to authorities under a national security law.
Chow Hang-tung, Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong were arrested in 2021 in a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement following massive protests more than three years ago. You were the leader of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China and were found guilty last week.
The now-defunct alliance was best known for organizing candlelight vigils in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the Chinese military’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but was pushed to disband in the shadow of Beijing-imposed national security Year 2021 elected law.
Supporters say its closure has shown that freedoms and autonomy promised when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 are waning.
Before she was disbanded, police had sought details of her operations and finances related to alleged ties to pro-democracy groups abroad and accused her of being a foreign agent. However, the group refused to cooperate, arguing that the police had no right to request their information because it was not a foreign agent and the authorities did not provide sufficient justification.
According to the implementing provisions of the Security Law, the police chief can request a range of information from a foreign agent. Failure to comply could result in a conviction of up to six months in prison and a HK$100,000 (US$12,740) fine.
To mitigate her, Chow said the Alliance is not a foreign agent and nothing has surfaced to prove otherwise, so the sentencing is about punishing people for defending the truth.
She said national security is being used as an excuse to wage war on civil society.
“Sir, condemn us for our disobedience if you must, but when the exercise of power is based on lies, disobedience is the only way to be human,” she said.
At the sentencing hearing, Chief Justice Peter Law said the case is the first of its kind under the new law and the sentencing must send a clear message to society that the law does not condone violation.
Law, who received approval from the mayor to oversee the case, said he saw no justification for reducing the four-and-a-half-year sentence.
The annual vigil organized by the coalition 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 measures to control the pandemic.
Chow, along with two other former Alliance leaders, Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho, was charged in 2021 with inciting subversion of state power under the Security Act. The alliance itself was accused of undermining.
The national security law criminalizes secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces to interfere in the city’s affairs, and terrorism. Many pro-democracy activists were silenced or jailed after its passage in 2020.
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/hong-kong-ap-china-failure-beijing-b2298610.html Hong Kong activists behind Tiananmen vigil to months in prison