Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Chow Hang-tung jailed for 15 months

A Hong Kong court sentenced a 36-year-old barrister to 15 months in prison on Tuesday for inciting an unauthorised assembly to commemorate those who died in China's 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Reuters reports.

Activist Chow Hang-tung, of the since-closed Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, was arrested the day before the June 4th anniversary of the crackdown last year.

Authorities have banned Hong Kong's annual Tiananmen vigils for the last two years, citing coronavirus restrictions, however many activists saw the bans as an attempt to shut down displays of defiance to Beijing.

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

Chow's charge relates to social media posts titled "Lighting a candle is not a crime: Stand one's ground," and her Ming Pao newspaper article titled "Candlelight carries the weight of conscience and the Hong Kong people persevere in telling the truth."

Magistrate Amy Chan in the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court said she found the 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."

Chan added the assembly caused "a public health risk."

Chow, who represented herself, and who also faces charges of inciting subversion, had pleaded not guilty, saying she wanted to "incite others not to forget June 4th," not to encourage a gathering. Chan said she found the argument "simply unbelievable," adding Chow's academic qualifications would have allowed her to be more clear in her writing.

"It can be foreseen that the public space to discuss June 4th will disappear entirely," a tearful Chow told the court after the verdict. "Tyranny is greedy, red lines will keep expanding."

Last month, eight pro-democracy activists were sentenced to up to 14 months for their role in the 2020 vigil. Among them, Chow received a 12-month sentence.

Five months of the sentence announced on Tuesday will run concurrently, meaning Chow will only serve 10 months in addition to her previous sentence.

Sixteen other activists are already serving sentences of 4-10 months related to the 2020 vigil. Two democracy campaigners facing similar charges, Nathan Law and Sunny Cheung, had fled Hong Kong before they were charged.

Image: By Iris Tong - https://www.voachinese.com/a/hk-concern-group-condemning-chinese-authorities-oppression-of-lawyers-20210104/5723976.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/...


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