Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

Leading activist has been jailed for 15 months in the second conviction for banned Tiananmen Square wake.

A leading Hong Kong activist has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for inciting a vigilant vigilance commemorating those who died in Beijing’s repression on Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Chow Hang-tung, the former deputy chairman of the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Patriotic Democratic Movements, was sentenced to a new jail term in West Kowloon Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

The 36-year-old lawyer is already serve a 12-month sentence on charges of participating in and inciting an unauthorized meeting for her role in the 2020 vigil.

For the past two years, police have banned the June 4 vigil, usually an annual event, citing the pandemic.

But after the mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, many activists saw the ban as an attempt to end demonstrations of resistance against Beijing. Authorities denied that was the reason.

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

During Chow’s trial, prosecutors said the activist incited others to take part in the vigilance through articles published on her Facebook account and in the Ming Pao newspaper.

Chow, who represented herself, pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying she wanted to “encourage others not to forget June 4” and not to encourage a rally.

Magistrate Amy Chan said in a ruling that the meeting posed a ‘public health risk’ and that Chow’s articles amounted to inciting others to resist the police ban.

Chan said the activist was “determined to attract attention and publish with the aim of appealing to the public to come together”.

Chan said five months of the sentence announced Tuesday will be served simultaneously, meaning Chow will serve 10 months in addition to her current sentence.

The activist proved a fiery accused throughout her trial.

She used her mitigation on Tuesday to read from the memoirs of families of people killed at Tiananmen. This provoked Chan, followed by applause from some in the gallery. The magistrate then ordered the police to identify those who cheered.

Chow also condemned the court’s ruling on Tuesday, saying authorities are criminalizing speech.

“It can be foreseen that the public space to discuss June 4 will disappear completely,” a tearful Chow told the court after the verdict. “Tyranny is greedy, red lines will continue to expand.”

Chow is also facing separate charges of inciting undermining under a comprehensive national security law introduced by Beijing Hong Kong in 2020.

Her group, the Alliance in Support of China’s Patriotic Democratic Movements, disband in the middle of it investigation, with the police accusing it of being an “agent of foreign powers”, which the group denied.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the promise of wide freedoms, traditionally holds the largest June 4 vigil in the world.

But anniversaries have become increasingly difficult. Last month, universities in the Tiananmen area removed monuments, including the “Pillar of shame” at the University of Hong Kong and the “Goddess of democracy” at the Chinese University.

A June 4 museum was raided and closed by police during the investigation into the Alliance, and its online version is not available in Hong Kong.

China has never provided a complete version of the 1989 repression. The death toll given by officials days later was about 300, most of them soldiers, but rights groups and witnesses say thousands may have been killed.

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