Hong Kong activists jailed for Tiananmen crackdown
Posted on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 | 11:29 p.m.
Updated Tuesday September 14, 2021 | 11:29 p.m.
HONG KONG (AP) – Nine activists and former Hong Kong lawmakers were sentenced to prison terms of up to 10 months on Wednesday for their role in the banned candlelight vigil in Tiananmen Square last year, the latest coup hard in the ongoing crackdown on dissent in the city.
The nine are among a group of 12 defendants who pleaded guilty earlier this month to participating in the vigil, which was the only large-scale public commemoration on Chinese soil of the 1989 crackdown in Beijing against the student-led events. Three others were given suspended sentences.
They were all charged with participating in an unauthorized rally, with seven of them facing an additional charge for inciting others to participate in the event.
Police last year banned the annual vigil for the first time in three decades, citing public health risks from the coronavirus pandemic. Critics believe the ban is part of the crackdown on the opposition in semi-autonomous Chinese territory after months of anti-government protests in 2019.
More than a dozen activists showed up at the vigil on June 4 despite the ban and thousands followed suit. Crowds broke through barriers set up around the Victoria Park site to light candles and sing songs despite warnings from police.
Police then arrested more than 20 activists, including leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Democratic Patriotic Movements, the association that holds the annual vigil.
Some of those convicted on Wednesday, such as lawyer Albert Ho and Figo Chan, former leader of the late Civil Front for Human Rights, are already serving prison terms for other unauthorized gatherings.
Eight other activists who were indicted during the Tiananmen vigil last year, including Jimmy Lai, the founder of the late Apple Daily newspaper as well as alliance leader Lee Cheuk-yan, have pleaded not guilty and will stand trial. November.
Prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and three others had previously pleaded guilty for their role in the event and had been sentenced to between four and 10 months in prison.
Last June, Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong that targets secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion in the city’s affairs. More than 100 people have been arrested under the National Security Act.
Officials in Beijing and Hong Kong have faced criticism for rolling back the freedoms promised in Hong Kong for 50 years when the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.