A Hong Kong court has sentenced eight democrats to jail for organising, taking part in, or inciting others to participate in last year’s banned Tiananmen Massacre vigil.
Former leaders of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – including chairperson Lee Cheuk-yan, vice-chairperson Chow Hang-tung, executive committee member Simon Leung, as well as liquidator Richard Tsoi – were among the eight defendants appearing in the District Court on Monday.
The other defendants appearing in front of Judge Amanda Woodcock were Hong Kong media tycoon and founder of the now-defunct pro-democracy tabloid Apple Daily Jimmy Lai, former lawmakers Leung Yiu-chung and Wu Chi-wai, and activist Gwyneth Ho.
Each of the defendants were handed jail terms of between four months and two weeks and 14 months behind bars for the various charges – all will serve their sentences concurrently.
|Defendant|| Jail term |
| Jail term|
| Jail term|
|Suspended?||Total to be served|
|D1: Lee Cheuk-yan||14 months||14 months||7 months||No||14 months|
|D3: Richard Tsoi||n.a.||12 months||7 months||No||12 months|
|D4: Jimmy Lai||n.a.||13 months||n.a.||No||13 months|
|D7: Leung Yiu-chung||n.a.||9 months||4 months, 2 weeks||No||9 months|
|D10: Simon Leung||n.a.||9 months||4 months, 2 weeks||No||9 months|
|D13: Chow Hang-tung||n.a.||12 months||6 months||No||12 months|
|D17: Wu Chi-wai||n.a.||n.a.||4 months, 2 weeks||No||4 months, 2 weeks|
|D19: Gwyneth Ho||n.a.||n.a.||6 months||No||6 months|
All defendants, aside from Chow, Lai, and Ho, pleaded guilty to the charges last month. Lee admitted to organising, inciting, and participating in the banned rally, while Tsoi, Leung Yiu-chung, and Simon Leung pleaded guilty to the incitement and participation charges. Wu admitted to the participation charge.
The remaining three democrats became the only defendants in the case to go through trial. Woodcock convicted the trio last Thursday.
The media tycoon was found guilty of inciting others to participate in the rally, while Ho was convicted of taking part in the unauthorised assembly. Chow was convicted of the incitement and participation charges.
‘Wrong and arrogant’
As the defendants stepped into the courtroom, people stood up and shouted “hang in there.” Some of the defendants waved back.
The judge, when deciding on the punishment, said there was a need for “deterrent” sentences. As some defendants, including Lee and Tsoi, carried out the offence while on court bail, Woodcock also added three months to the starting point of their jail terms, before deducting around 20 per cent for those pleaded guilty.
For Lai and Lee, who are already serving prison terms over three unauthorised assemblies in 2019, they will serve their new jail terms concurrently with the current ones.
The judge also said that, while at the time of the banned vigil last year, the level of social unrest had decreased considerably, it had “not disappeared entirely.” She also said that there was another threat in the form of a pandemic in the beginning of 2020, and that it “presented a different set of risk.”
Woodcock added that the group “belittled” a “genuine” public health threat, and had “wrongly and arrogantly” thought the purpose of the commemoration was “more important than protecting the community.”
In her mitigation letter, organiser Chow remained defiant, arguing that “the government’s blatant attempt at erasing history and suppressing activism must be resisted.” Lai, in turn, wrote that if commemorating those who “died because of injustice is a crime, then inflict on me that crime and let me suffer the punishment…”
Meanwhile, Ho said in her statement that the sentencing was a “sentence on every single Hongkonger in Victoria Park on the night of June 4, 2020.”
Ahead of his sentencing, Choi told reporters outside court that “what we have done in the past was done openly under the sun, history will judge our work.”
After the sentences were handed down, someone in the court gallery shouted “mourning is not a crime,” while the others waved at the democrats as they left the dock.
Last year’s Tiananmen Massacre vigil was banned for the first time by the police citing Covid-19 health concerns. A total of 24 defendants were brought to the court over the prohibited commemoration, and the group were the last of the defendants to be sentenced.
For decades, Hong Kong was one of the few places in greater China where commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre was tolerated. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army were deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing, ending months of student-led demonstrations in China on June 4, 1989.
The organiser of the annual vigils, the Alliance, had faced increasing pressure from the government, and members voted to disband the group in September. The group itself and several of its members are also facing charges under the Beijing-imposed national security law.
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