Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, three others plead guilty to taking part in 2020 Tiananmen Square vigil

Brian Wong
·3-min read

Jailed Hong Kong opposition activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung has pleaded guilty to taking part in an unauthorised June 4 vigil last year commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Three district councillors – Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen Ka-wai and Jannelle Rosalynne Leung – have also admitted knowingly taking part in an unauthorised assembly, an offence under the Public Order Ordinance that could land them five years in prison.

All four defendants were remanded in jail ahead of sentencing next Thursday, but all except Leung were already behind bars before Friday’s hearing.

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The four were the first batch of defendants to enter a formal plea at the District Court on charges arising from the annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, which police banned last year for the first time since it started in 1990.

Despite Hong Kong police rejecting the application for the event, thousands turned up for the annual Tiananmen Square commemoration last year. Photo: Robert Ng
Despite Hong Kong police rejecting the application for the event, thousands turned up for the annual Tiananmen Square commemoration last year. Photo: Robert Ng

Prosecutors have laid a total of 39 charges against 26 leading opposition figures, including jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying. The charges include organising or taking part in an unauthorised assembly and a related incitement offence.

Two of the accused, former lawmaker Nathan Law Kwun-chung and activist Sunny Cheung Kwan-yang, have fled the country and are wanted by police.

Lawyers for the remaining 20 defendants previously asked for extra time to consider their respective pleas.

In Friday’s hearing, prosecutor Edward Lau Wan-cheung said around 20,000 participants took part in the illegal assembly, and chanted slogans including “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” and “Five Demands, Not One Less”, referring to protesters’ demands during the civil unrest in 2019.

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The court heard police, at the suggestion of the Department of Health, had declined an application by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China to host the annual event.

In a memo to police dated May 28 last year, health officials expressed concern that a public gathering could heighten the risk of Covid-19 infections at a time when the city was witnessing an upsurge in cases.

Taking the estimated turnout into account, officials said it was unlikely all participants would wear masks and respect social-distancing rules. They also found it “logistically challenging” to implement effective temperature screening at the park’s entrances, and it would be “technically difficult” to trace contacts had any participants been infected.

Despite the objection, the defendants and other participants gathered on the park’s football pitches to remember the 1989 incident by holding candles and singing songs. Police cordoned off roads around the park as a result of the gathering crowd.

People take part in a candlelight vigil at Kwun Tong Waterfront on June 4 last year. Photo: K.Y. Cheng
People take part in a candlelight vigil at Kwun Tong Waterfront on June 4 last year. Photo: K.Y. Cheng

Defence lawyer Graham Harris SC urged the court to spare the four jail, saying the vigil was peaceful and orderly, and the four had worn face masks throughout the assembly.

“No acts of violence were intended, incited, encouraged or committed by any of these four defendants. The meeting at Victoria Park was at all times peaceful and orderly,” Harris said. “The inconvenience to the public caused by this case, with respect, was relatively insignificant.”

The judge, however, said a community service order would not be a proper punishment.

Joshua Wong is currently behind bars for his roles in two anti-government protests in 2019, sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill. He was slated for release in November.

Wong, Shum and Yuen have been denied bail after they were charged with subversion alongside 44 other opposition figures over an unofficial primary election for the Legislative Council last summer.

This article Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, three others plead guilty to taking part in 2020 Tiananmen Square vigil first appeared on South China Morning Post

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