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Hong Kong activist Chow Hang-tung sentenced to 15 months in prison over unauthorized Tiananmen Square vigil

Chow is a former vice chairwoman of the now-disbanded group Hong Kong Alliance, which since 1990 has held an annual candlelight vigil on the anniversary of the bloody army crackdown. This is her second conviction for organizing banned Tiananmen vigils.

For three many years, Hong Kong has been the one place on Chinese-controlled soil allowed to publicly commemorate the occasions in and round Tiananmen Square, throughout which unarmed principally pupil protesters had been brutally suppressed by Chinese troops.

But for the previous two years, town’s police have banned the event, citing Covid-19 restrictions. Despite the ban, small crowds continued to present up and light-weight candles in 2020, and once more in 2021.
Chow was arrested on the morning of June 4 final 12 months and later charged with “incitement to knowingly take part in an unauthorized assembly,” a criminal offense she was discovered responsible of Tuesday.

According to courtroom paperwork, in the months main up to the anniversary, the Hong Kong Alliance submitted a “Notification of the Intention to Hold a Public Meeting/Procession” to town’s police. Their request was rejected, appealed, after which rejected once more by police, who cited public well being and security considerations.

Despite the police’s choice, Chow posted on her social media pages calling on residents throughout Hong Kong to gentle a candle in remembrance of the bloodbath, the paperwork mentioned.

The courtroom additionally cited an article Chow allegedly wrote on the anniversary, titled “Candlelight carries the weight of conscience and the Hong Kong people persevere in telling the truth,” revealed in the native Ming Pao newspaper.

Chow, a barrister, represented herself in courtroom and pleaded not responsible to the cost, arguing that interesting to the general public to gentle candles didn’t represent “incitement.” She additionally challenged the police prohibition order on the grounds it undermined her proper to freedom of meeting and argued that she appealed for candles to be lit “anywhere” throughout Hong Kong, and was not encouraging a rally.

In her judgment, the Justice of the Peace wrote that Chow had “overstepped the boundaries laid down by the law by seriously unlawful means of inciting others to knowingly take part in an unlawful assembly.”

Chow was already serving a 12-month sentence for her position in organizing the 2020 Tiananmen vigil. The two sentences will run concurrently, which means she’s going to now serve a further 10 months in prison.

She was additionally amongst 4 activists from the Hong Kong Alliance arrested in September final 12 months after the group refused to adjust to a police order to submit data on nationwide safety grounds.

The Tiananmen crackdown stays one of the tightly censored matters in mainland China with all point out of it scrubbed from mass media. Chinese authorities haven’t launched an official dying toll, however estimates vary from a number of hundred to 1000’s.

After Hong Kong’s 1997 handover from British to Chinese management, the continuation of the vigil and related memorials had been seen as a litmus check for town’s autonomy and democratic freedoms, as promised in its de facto structure.

But town’s political and social panorama has remodeled with unimaginable pace since Beijing imposed a sweeping nationwide safety legislation in 2020, punishing offenses corresponding to subversion and secession with sentences of up to life in prison.

Under the laws, activists, journalists and pro-democracy lawmakers have been arrested; newsrooms have been raided and compelled to shut down; textbooks, movies and web sites face new censorship; and civic organizations together with labor unions have folded after strain from authorities.

(*15*)Even statues commemorating Tiananmen have been focused. The “Pillar of Shame” sculpture, an iconic memorial to the Tiananmen victims that has lengthy stood in the University of Hong Kong, was eliminated beneath the quilt of darkness final month. The college mentioned the removing “was based on external legal advice and risk assessment.”

The Hong Kong authorities has repeatedly refuted accusations the safety laws has stifled freedoms, claiming it has as an alternative restored order in town after it was shaken by mass protests from 2019.

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