A European Union spokesperson’s criticism of the conviction of three Hong Kong Tiananmen vigil activists has “scandalised” the city’s judicial system, the Hong Kong government and the Commissioner’s Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong have said.

Nabila Massrali, EU spokesperson for foreign affairs and security policy, said on Twitter last Saturday that the conviction of Chow Hang-tung, Tang Ngok-kwan, and Tsui Hon-kwong was “another example of the authorities abusing legislation to suppress fundamental freedoms.”

Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.
The candlelight vigil held on June 4, 2019 to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

The trio was found guilty of failing to comply to a national security police data request earlier this month, and sentenced to 4.5 months in prison last Saturday.

All three were granted bail pending appeal, but Chow rejected bail after refusing to accept that she would not be allowed to accept any interviews or make any speeches that could be deemed as endangering national security.

Chow, Tang, and Tsui were standing committee members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which disbanded in September 2021. The group organised the city’s annual vigils commemorating victims of the Tiananmen crackdown.

A spokesperson for Commissioner’s Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong said in a statement last Sunday that it “strongly disapproved and firmly rejected” Massrali’s “irresponsible remarks.”

Massrali’s remarks “vilified the judicial justice” of Hong Kong, interfered in the city’s and China’s affairs, and “trampled on the principles of international law and the basic norms governing international relations,” the spokesperson said.

Chow, Tang, and Tsui’s conviction reflected “the principle that laws must be enforced, and that law-breakers must be held accountable,” the statement read.

The Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong SAR
The Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in the Hong Kong SAR. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

“It is a necessary action to safeguard the authority of the national security law and it brooks no slander.”

The Hong Kong government, in a statement released that Sunday evening, also said it “strongly disapproved and firmly rejected the scandalising” of Hong Kong’s criminal justice process.

“Any person’s attempt to undermine the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong by slandering the rule of law in Hong Kong will only expose his own weakness and faulty arguments and be doomed to fail,” a government spokesperson said in the statement.

Government headquarters
The Hong Kong Government headquarters in Admiralty. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The Beijing-imposed national security law, enacted in June 2020, gave police sweeping new powers and attracted widespread criticism from the international community and activist groups. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

Chow, who has been remanded in custody since her prosecution in September 2021, stands accused of inciting subversion in a separate national security case alongside the Alliance, and two other of the group’s ex-leaders, Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho.

The Alliance disbanded with a members’ vote soon after its members’ arrests. Before 2020, Hong Kong was one of the very few places soil on Chinese where authorities allowed public commemorative events to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown.

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.

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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.