A Hong Kong court has denied bail to barrister Chow Hang-tung, vice-chair of the group behind the city’s annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil, after she was charged under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

She appeared alongside the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Democratic Movements of China Chair Lee Cheuk-yan and vice-chair Albert Ho at West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts in front of Acting Chief Magistrate Peter Law on Friday.

West Kowloon Magistrates Courts. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The group, along with the Alliance itself, were charged under the security law for allegedly inciting subversion.

They were accused of inciting other people “to organise, plan, commit or participate in acts by unlawful means with a view to subverting the State power, namely overthrowing or undermining the basic system of the People’s Republic of China established by the constitution of the People’s Republic of China, or overthrowing the body of central power of the People’s Republic of China.”

Beijing inserted the national security law into Hong Kong’s Basic Law last June. The sweeping legislation criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.

The prosecution applied to adjourn the case to allow for more time for a police investigation. The force have taken away USB sticks, tablets, as well as notebook computers relating to the case, the prosecution said.

Both Lee and Ho, who are both serving jail sentences for other protest-related charges, did not apply for bail. Chow made an application representing herself, but the court denied her bail.

Bail reporting

Magistrate Law also denied an application to lift bail reporting restrictions, after Chow made an argument supporting the application by reporters.

Chow Hang-tung. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The magistrate said that the application was denied as an investigation was still ongoing, and that the trial procedure could be impacted if restrictions were lifted.

He also said that the decision was made considering the court’s professionalism and integrity, and that the court procedure should not be used as a platform for making political declarations.

Under court reporting restrictions, written and broadcast reports are limited to include only the result of a bail proceedings, the name of the person applying for bail and their representation, and the offence concerned.

Before the court session began, pro-Beijing protesters celebrated the group’s charges as they cheered and rallied behind a banner that read “the Alliance, Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho, Chow Hang-tung incitement to subversion.”

The Alliance has been a key player in Hong Kong civil society, organising annual candlelight vigils every June 4 to call for democracy and commemorate victims of the bloody crackdown in Beijing. 

The Tiananmen massacre occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing.

Applause in court

Pro-democracy protestor “Grandma Wong” was also at the scene outside court holding a yellow umbrella and shouting slogans including “vindicating June 4th [the Tiananmen Massacre].”

Pro-democracy protestor “Grandma Wong” (right) and a group of pro-Beijing protesters outside the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on September 10, 2021. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

People in the public gallery waved and shouted “good morning brother Yan” as the defendants stepped into the dock. All three defendants waved back. During Chow’s submission, the public gallery erupted in applause and cheered on several occasions.

After the court session was adjourned, people in the public gallery waved and shouted again “Yan hang in there,” “Tung well done,” as well as “illegal trial” as the defendants left the dock.

Police raided the Alliance’s premises, including its shuttered historical museum to the memory of the 1989 massacre on Thursday, removing key exhibits and boxes of material. Assets worth around HK$2.2 million were also frozen by the force.

Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.