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Hong Kong jails Tiananmen Square vigil organizers

March 11, 2023

The Hong Kong Alliance leaders were arrested under the national security law for failing to handover details about the organization's meetings and finances.

A general view shows thousands of people attending a candle-lit vigil to commemorate the pro-democracy students who died in an army crackdown on June 4, 1989 in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Alliance had organised the Tiananmen square vigil for three decades before getting arrested in 2021Image: Alex Hofford/dpa/picture alliance

Three former organizers of Hong Kong's annual Tiananmen square vigil — which mourns the lives lost in the 1989 massacre during a pro-democracy protest — have been sentenced to jail for four and a half months after a court found them guilty under the national security law.

Chow Hang-tung, Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong were the leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China which is known for holding candlelight vigils to mark the Tiananmen square annivarsary.

The vigil was banned in 2020 under COVID rules and outlawed in 2021 under the national security law aimed at restricting pro-democracy voices

'It's really difficult for Hong Kongers to continue Tiananmen remembrance': DW's Phoebe Kong reports (04.06.2022)

The case against the pro-democracy activists

The trio were arrested in 2021 for failing to hand over a wide range of documents, including minutes of the meeting and financial records when the authorities suspected they were "foreign agents."

The organization disbanded in the same year, under the shadow of the archaic law.

Under the security law's implementation rules, the police chief can request a range of information from a foreign agent. Failure to comply with the request could result in six months in jail and a fine of 100,000 Hong Kong dollars (€12,000 or $12,740) if convicted.

During the sentencing, Magistrate Peter Law said that the case was the first of its kind under the new law and the sentencing has to send a clear message to society that the law does not condone any violation.

Meanwhile Chow vowed to "fight falsehood with truth" in a defiant courtroom speech.

"Sentence us for our insubordination if you must, but when the exercise of power is based on lies, to be insubordinate is the only way to be human," she said. "We know as a matter of fact that we are no 'foreign agent,' and nothing has emerged during this year-long ordeal that proves otherwise."

Prosecutors did not name which country the alliance was allegedly working for. Moreover, substantial chunks of the evidence was redacted or withheld, even from the judge.

Two other Hong Kong Alliance members had pleaded guilty and were sentenced to three months in jail in 2021 and 2022.

mk/ar (AFP, AP)