Hong Kong lawyer jailed for organising Tiananmen vigil

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  • Chow Hang-tung
    Hong Kong activist, barrister, and politician

A Hong Kong court has sentenced a 36-year-old lawyer to 15 months in prison over her role in a vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Chow Hang Tung was sentenced on Tuesday at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts for inciting others to take part in the vigil in June last year.

Hong Kong’s authorities have banned the event for the past two years citing pandemic restrictions.

Ms Chow, a lawyer and activist, was the vice chairwoman of the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

She was found guilty of helping organise the vigil.

In the courtroom, she summarised the events of 1989 in Tiananmen Square before the judge stopped her.

“These are all facts. They are not my political opinions. The people who died on 4 June are the real victims. They should be in this court instead of me,” she said.

Magistrate Amy Chan, who gave the verdict, said the courtroom was not a platform for her to air her political views.

Ms Chow was arrested a day before the 4 June anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre last year.

In 2020, even as the Hong Kong authorities banned the 4 June anniversary vigil, thousands of people across the city lit candles and participated.

Smaller crowds also commemorated the 4 June Tiananmen Square victims last year.

Several activists believe Hong Kong’s authorities banned the vigil because they didn’t want to see any defiance of Beijing, while officials have maintained that the ban was to enforce health protocols.

Ms Chow had written a post on social media titled “Lighting a candle is not a crime: Stand one’s ground” and an article in the Ming Pao newspaper titled “Candlelight carries the weight of conscience and the Hong Kong people persevere in telling the truth.”

Magistrate Amy Chan said she found Ms Chow’s posts and article were meant “to encourage, persuade, make suggestions to and put pressure on members of the public” and “amounted to inciting others to knowingly take part in an unauthorised assembly.”

The magistrate said the vigil caused “a public health risk.”

Ms Chow had pleaded not guilty.

She told the court she wanted to incite others not to forget the events of 4 June 1989, and not to encourage a gathering.

“It can be foreseen that the public space to discuss 4 June will disappear entirely. Tyranny is greedy, red lines will keep expanding,” she said.

The 36-year-old had earlier last month received a 12-month sentence. Eight pro-democracy activists, including Ms Chow, were handed down sentences of up to 14 months in prison over their role in organising the vigil in 2020.

Ms Chow will serve only 10 months of the 15-month sentence as the additional five months will run concurrently with an earlier 12-month sentence given to her in December last year for organising the vigil in 2020.

Additional reporting by agencies

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