Tuesday, January 25

Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong: activist Chow sentenced for the second time

Pro-democracy activist Chow Hang-tung on Tuesday accused the Hong Kong justice system of making freedom of speech a crime and helping the authorities to erase the memory of the crackdown on Tiananmen when he was sentenced, for the second time, for encouragement to participate in this vigil.

Ms Chow, a 36-year-old lawyer who has always defended herself fiercely, was one of the leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance. This association, which voted to dissolve it last September, organized an annual vigil in tribute to the victims of the bloody repression of demonstrators in favor of democracy in Beijing on June 4, 1989 in Tiananmen Square.

In 2020 and 2021, the Hong Kong police had banned the holding of these gatherings, citing the Covid-19 epidemic and security threats.

Courts have already sentenced many activists, including Ms. Chow, to jail terms for violating this ban in 2020.

The lawyer was arrested on June 4, 2021 after publishing two articles calling on residents to light candles and commemorate the anniversary.

On Tuesday, a court sentenced her to 15 months in jail after ruling that her articles amounted to inciting people to defy the police ban.

“The message this verdict sends is that lighting a candle is a misdemeanor, that words are a misdemeanor,” Ms Chow told the court.

“The only way to defend freedom of expression is to continue to speak out,” she added. “The real crime is to cover the murderers with laws and to erase the victims in the name of the state.”

Hong Kong has long been the only place in China where the commemoration of the Tiananmen events was tolerated.

For more than three decades, every June 4, tens of thousands of people gathered to participate in these vigils of remembrance. But since the huge pro-democracy protests of 2019 and Beijing’s takeover of Hong Kong, they have been banned.

Throughout her appearances, Ms. Chow has spoken out loud about her feelings and beliefs.

On Tuesday, she read in court excerpts from the memoirs of families of people killed in Tiananmen.

– “Moralizer” –

The magistrate, Amy Chan, immediately issued a reprimand and the police were ordered to take down the identity numbers of the people who applauded.

“The law never allows anyone to exercise their freedom by illegal means,” Ms. Chan said.

“She (Ms Chow) was determined to attract attention in order to call the public to come together,” she added.

During the verdict, the magistrate qualified this figure of the pro-democracy movement as “moralizing” who showed no remorse and made the court a forum for expressing his political opinions.

Ms Chow is already serving a one-year prison sentence after being sentenced a few months ago for instigating in 2020 to attend a Tiananmen vigil.

She will therefore have to spend a total of 22 months behind bars, according to the recalculation made by the court.

She was also charged with violating the drastic national security law, an offense punishable by life imprisonment.

Hong Kong Alliance leaders, including Ms. Chow, are among dozens of activists prosecuted for breaking the law.

The June 4 Museum dedicated to the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, run by the Hong Kong Alliance, was forced to close in June.

At the end of December, two sculptures commemorating the Tiananmen repression were debunked overnight by two universities in the city.

An official campaign has also been launched to eliminate from the city all that is “anti-Chinese”, as well as those deemed un-patriotic.

Some courses in schools and universities have been revised to encourage greater patriotism towards China. Media critical of the executive have been searched and some of their leaders arrested. One newspaper and two news sites closed in just over six months.

Reference-www.rtl.be

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