A Hong Kong pro-democracy activist accused of taking part in last year’s banned Tiananmen Massacre vigil told a court she went to Victoria Park not to mourn the victims, but to show resistance to the police prohibition of the event.

Gwyneth Ho acknowledged being in the park on the evening of June 4 but said she had not been taking part in the commemorative candlelight vigil.

The annual vigil at Victoria Park on June 4, 2020, to commemorate victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. Photo: May James/HKFP.

Ho; the vice-chairperson of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China Chow Hang-tung; and media tycoon Jimmy Lai appeared in District Court before Judge Amanda Woodcock on the seventh day of their trial.

The trio deny inciting others to participate in, or themselves taking part in, an unauthorised assembly. Twenty-one others also linked to last year’s banned vigil have pleaded guilty pending sentence or have already been sentenced to jail.

The prosecution, led by Senior Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Laura Ng, cross-examined Ho on Tuesday. Ng argued that Ho was taking part in the vigil as she was wearing black, had brought flowers with her, and was holding a candle inside the park on June 4, 2020.

Ho said she wore black not to mourn the victims of the 1989 massacre in Beijing, but to show resistance to the regime, and that she was holding flowers and a candle to test the difference between Hong Kong and mainland China.

“Because in my understanding, walking on the street while holding candles and flowers [on June 4th] would only warrant arrest in one place in the world, that is mainland China,” said Ho. “I wanted to see the difference between Hong Kong and mainland China.”

Ho said she “never mourned June 4th.”

“I disagree that one needs to mourn for June 4th. I think one should carry on with the democratic movement of 1989 with action,” she said.

Ng asked Ho whether she believed that “being able to mourn June 4th means Hong Kong people can still exercise freedoms of expression, speech, and demonstration without fear.”

Gwyneth Ho. Photo: Gwyneth Ho via Facebook.

“Hong Kong people supposedly enjoy those rights,” said Ho.

The prosecution played video clips showing Ho and a group she was with in Victoria Park, including activist Joshua Wong and former lawmaker Eddie Chu. Ng argued that Ho was sitting deliberately close to a group around the chairperson of the Alliance Lee Cheuk-yan.

Ho disagreed, saying she was not observing a minute of silence and had not laid flowers to mourn the victims.

The Tiananmen Massacre ended months of student-led demonstrations in China for democracy and other causes. 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.

The Alliance for three decades organised the candlelight vigil until authorities banned it in 2020 on the grounds of the Covid-19 pandemic. The event was also banned this year for the same reason.

Translation issues

Ho and the prosecution argued in court about the translation of several phrases.

District Court. Photo: GovHK.

The Alliance, after the vigil was banned, told people to “blossom everywhere” and urged them to commemorate the victims in their own way.

Ho’s representative, barrister Allison Wong, asked the activist about her understanding of “blossom everywhere.” Ho said she understood it to mean that the Alliance was asking people to light candles in places other than Victoria Park.

Wong also asked Ho what the activist meant by “resisting the prohibition,” and whether Ho meant defying the police ban.

Ho said she could not be accused of defying the ban on the vigil as the Alliance had not organised any such event. She said she was resisting the “unspoken purpose” behind the police ban, which was to scare people away from Victoria Park.

Spectators applauded as Ho was walked back to the dock after finishing her testimony. As the defendants left the dock after the hearing was adjourned, people stood up and waved at them, withe some shouting “Hang in there!”

The trio will appear in court again on Thursday for final submissions by both sides.

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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.