Three former members of a Hong Kong group that organised annual vigils to mark China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre have been sentenced to four and a half months in jail for not complying with a request for information under a Beijing-imposed national security law.
Chow Hang-tung, 38, a prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist and former vice chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, was sentenced at a magistrate’s court on Saturday alongside co-defendants Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong.
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Announcing the custodial sentence that fell short of the six-month maximum jail term allowed for the charge, magistrate Peter Law said “national security is cardinally important to public interests and the whole nation”.
The now-disbanded alliance was the main organiser of Hong Kong’s June 4 candlelight vigil for victims of China’s Tiananmen Square where in 1989 Chinese troops and tanks were deployed against peaceful pro-democracy protests.
Every year, the vigil had attracted tens of thousands of people in the largest public commemoration of its kind on Chinese soil.
Speaking before sentencing on Saturday, Chow was defiant, while criticising what she described as the “political” nature of the case, and the decision of the court to withhold key facts.
“We will continue doing what we have always done, that is to fight falsehood with truth, indignity with dignity, secrecy with openness, madness with reason, division with solidarity. We will fight these injustices wherever we must, be it on the streets, in the courtroom, or from a prison cell,” said Chow from the dock, in a speech that was interrupted several times by Law.
The alliance was accused by the prosecutor, Ivan Cheung, of being a “foreign agent” for an unidentified organisation after allegedly receiving HK$20,000 ($2,562.69) in funding.
Tang and Tsui were both granted bail pending appeal, while Chow remained in custody on Saturday awaiting trial in a separate national security case.
The 3 defendants are granted bail pending appeal after magistrate Law rejected the #NSL prosecutor Ivan Cheung’s proposals to add “catch all provision” to the existing bail conditions, and to ban media from reporting his argument made in the course of the bail application.
— Xinqi Su 蘇昕琪 (@XinqiSu) March 11, 2023
The national security law under which they were prosecuted criminalises secession, subversion, and collusion with foreign forces to intervene in the city’s affairs as well as terrorism. Many pro-democracy activists were silenced or jailed after its enactment in 2020.
In a separate case, Elizabeth Tang, who was arrested in Hong Kong for endangering national security earlier this week, was released on bail on Saturday. Tang is a veteran labour activist.
“I feel clueless because my work is always about labour rights and organising trade unions. So I don’t understand why I was accused of breaking the law and endangering national security,” she told reporters on Saturday after being released.
In a statement on Thursday that did not provide a name, police said they had arrested a 65-year-old woman on Hong Kong Island for suspected collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security. It said she was being detained for investigation.