Chow Hang-tung, former leader of the group behind Hong Kong’s Tiananmen candlelight vigils, has sought to appeal her conviction and sentence linked to last year’s June 4 assembly, which was banned by police for public health concerns.

Judge Judianna Barnes of the High Court will hear Chow’s argument on October 11.

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

Chow was jailed for 15 months in January for inciting others to take part in last year’s banned commemoration. The former vice-chairperson of the defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China stood accused of publishing two articles online that related to the vigil. Commemorations were held at Victoria Park every year before being effectively banned in 2020 and the years since.

The magistrate who convicted Chow ruled that although she had not explicitly told people to gather at Victoria Park, the gist of her articles was obvious.

A person holds an electric candle outside police barricades around Victoria Park on June 4, 2021. Photo: Jimmy Lam/HKFP.

It was not the first case the barrister-activist faced in relation to the Tiananmen vigils. She was sentenced to a year behind bars for inciting others to participate in, and for participating in, the gathering in 2020, which was also banned due to Covid.

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

‘Preventive arrest’

During the initial trial, Chow argued that her arrest on the early morning of June 4 last year was a “preventive arrest,” adding that the apprehension and prosecution were a “disproportional limit” to her rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

The barrister is also pending trial under the Beijing-imposed national security law, after she and two other former leaders of the Alliance and the organisation itself, were accused of inciting subversion.

Disbanded Alliance

Once taking a key role in Hong Kong’s efforts to commemorate the victims of the 1989 military crackdown, Chow was the last vice-chairperson of the Alliance before members voted for the group to disband last September.

Barrister Chow Hang-tung (second left) and other members of the Alliance meeting the press on September 5, 2021. Photo: Hong Kong Alliance, via Facebook.

Several former leaders and members of the vigil organiser, including former lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho, have been jailed over protest-related charges or are pending trial.

National security police also froze assets worth around HK$2.2 million following a raid at the Alliance’s premises last September.

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Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.