A former member of the group that organised Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen vigils has pleaded guilty to not complying with a national security police data probe.

Chan To-wai, an ex-standing committee member of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, appeared in front of hand-picked national security judge Principal Magistrate Peter Law at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Tuesday.

Chan To-wai (front) and Simon Leung (back) leave the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on May 10, 2022. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

Chan pleaded guilty to failing to comply with a notice served under the Beijing-imposed national security law, which required him and four other members of the alliance to provide requested information.

When reading out the charge, the court clerk mistakenly said “DAB” in Chinese, the largest pro-Beijing political party in Hong Kong, instead of “the alliance,” and only corrected her mistake after Law prompted her. Several people sitting in the public gallery snickered upon hearing the clerk’s mistake.

Chan, who was 57 years old when he was prosecuted in September last year, was charged along with former vice-president of the Alliance Chow Hang-tung, standing committee members Tang Ngok-kwan, Simon Leung, and Tsui Hon-kwong.

Leung pleaded guilty to the charge last December and was sentenced to three months in jail. He was released in April this year, after completing prison terms over the banned Tiananmen candlelight vigil held in 2020.

Chow, Tang, and Tsui, who also appeared in front of Law in court on Tuesday, pleaded not guilty to the charge last September.

Mitigation

Chan’s lawyer said during mitigation that Chan had been remanded in custody for 45 days, which would be equivalent to a 68-day sentence, taking into account good behaviour and remission.

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

Chan was denied bail on September 10 last year, then granted bail on October 22.

His lawyer said that he hoped the magistrate would impose a sentence that meant Chan would not need to serve any longer in prison, as Chan did not have a record of similar offences, and his previous conviction “has nothing to do with the charge.”

Law will hand down a sentence on Wednesday morning.

Before it disbanded last September, the alliance was 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 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing, where it is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.

Some key members of the alliance, as well as the organisation itself, face prosecution under the national security legislation over alleged incitement to subversion.

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.