Hong Kong court sentences Tiananmen vigil organisers to jail

The three organizers of an annual vigil to mark the bloody Tiananmen Square massacre in China in 1989 were sentenced to four and a half months in prison.

Three former members of a Hong Kong group that organized annual vigils to mark the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 have been sentenced to four and a half months in prison for failing to comply 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 deputy chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Patriotic Democratic Movements, was sentenced by a magistrate on Saturday along with co-defendants Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong .

Magistrate Peter Law announced the custodial sentence less than the maximum six-month prison term allowed for the charges, saying that “national security is of critical importance to the public interest and the entire nation”.

The now-disbanded alliance was the main organizer of the June 4 candlelight vigil in Hong Kong for the victims of China’s Tiananmen Square, where Chinese troops and tanks were deployed against peaceful pro-democracy protests in 1989.

Each year, the vigil drew tens of thousands of people to the largest public memorial of its kind on Chinese soil.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s sentencing, Chow was defiant, criticizing what she described as the “political” nature of the case and the court’s decision to withhold key facts.

“We will continue to do what we have always done, which is to fight untruth with truth, humiliation with dignity, secrecy with openness, madness with reason, division with solidarity. We will fight these injustices wherever we have to, whether it be on the street, in court or from a prison cell,” Chow said from the dock in a speech interrupted several times by Law.

The alliance was accused by prosecutor Ivan Cheung of being a “foreign agent” for an unidentified organization after reportedly receiving HK$20,000 ($2,562.69) in funding.

Tang and Tsui were both granted bail pending appeals, while Chow remained in custody on Saturday awaiting trial in a separate national security case.

The national security law under which they were prosecuted criminalizes secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces to interfere in the city’s affairs, as well as terrorism. Many pro-democracy activists were silenced or imprisoned after its enactment in 2020.

In a separate case, Elizabeth Tang, who was arrested in Hong Kong earlier this week for endangering national security, was released on bail on Saturday. Tang is an experienced labor activist.

“I have no idea, because my work is always about labor rights and organizing unions. So I don’t understand why I was charged with breaking the law and endangering national security,” she told reporters on Saturday after her release.

In an unnamed statement on Thursday, police said they had arrested a 65-year-old woman on Hong Kong Island for suspected conspiracy with foreign countries or outside elements to endanger national security. It said she was being held for investigation.